By John Wiz | Music | June 18, 2009 |
By John Wiz | Music | June 18, 2009 |
Evolution. Evolution is defined as a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage. (especially a more advanced or mature stage) Rarely can anyone be present for such an event, regardless of how well he or she plans the timeline. And so it was on one warm spring night in Philadelphia, I was witness to one such event. As the guitars started wailing and the drums started thumping, there was no sign in the air. There was no smoke signal. There was no memo. There was just this final explosion, an emergence of a great band, as had happened time and again since 1967. The Spectrum was the place where Kings of Leon finally said, “Hello, America. It’s about time you got it.”
For the uninitiated, Kings of Leon is not a new band. This wasn’t their first tour, and “Sex On Fire” and “Use Somebody” aren’t their first singles ever to get radio play. This is just the first time that American rock radio has given them their due. One EP and four albums into their careers, their home turf has finally shown some love.
A humble little band from Nashville, Tennessee, Kings of Leon consists of the Followill brothers; Caleb, Jared, and Nathan, and their cousin Matthew. The brothers were together throughout their entire childhood as they traveled through the southern U.S. with their father, a Pentecostal minister. Their cousin Matthew didn’t join the band until 2002 when the band was signed to RCA Records. That family unit had something together, and they sure-as-shit brought it to Philly.
It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a bit of a geek for KOL. And I’m fine with that. I don’t hold it over anyone’s head with a “you should have heard them when…” type attitude. Eff that. Hear them now. They are among a small handful of bands today, mainstream or otherwise, who keep themselves fresh. Their most recent album Only By The Night is a much slower paced, but cleaner sounding record than previous efforts. And THAT is what makes them good. They didn’t find a formula and stick with it, plowing out repetitive CD after repetitive CD. (I’m looking at you Nickelback, Disturbed, et al.) Their formula is that they just click. And when they click, they write music.
So back to Philadelphia… Going in to this concert I was thinking about a lot. I thought about how many people there were “real” fans. We all do it. Any one of us has a band that we love, and we feel that if someone doesn’t know every word to every song, then they just must be there because they heard the newest single. I thought about how many screaming tweens would be there ruining my good time. I thought about the inevitable row of giggly girls that would be sitting in the row in front of me talking about “OMGLoLWTF!! Caleb is so hot!” And I thought about how awesome it was that not even 6 months before this night, this very same band was playing in front of less than 3,000 people at the Electric Factory. On this night, they would be just shy of 20,000. It was mind boggling when I thought about it, and that’s what got me excited.
Just before 9pm, the house lights dimmed, the crowd roared, and the opening chords of “Crawl” carried heavily across the venue. For the next 90 minutes they absolutely rocked our faces off. And during that time all my pretentious “real” fan doubt was put to rest. Hearing 19,000 people singing in unison to songs that had never been played on the radio or were B-sides on an obscure EP put me at ease. I actually did end up sitting behind a full row of squirmy giggling girls. And they didn’t sit down for the entire show. They were too busy dancing and singing to every song. This moment wasn’t lost on me. And the night wasn’t lost on the band either.
Just before going into their last pre-encore song, all the music stopped. Everyone was still cheering and we had no idea why. Over the next 10 minutes Caleb Followill addressed the crowd, saying “thank you” more times than I would ever be able to count. Then came the most touching statement of the night.
“We’ve been to Philly before, and we love it here. Honestly, when we pulled in here today, I had no idea how big this place was on the inside. I know people must say this all the time, but we appreciate every one of you. To be standing up here right now doing what we love, in front of so many people, the moment’s not lost on us rest assured. I look around here right now and see thousands of people and it gives me hope. It gives me hope and I say to myself ‘Wow. America…you’re finally getting it.’ Thank you so much. We’re Kings of Leon.”
Words of thanks from a front man are almost always received as empty sentiments. Procedure, if you will, for the formula of a concert. That same conceit didn’t apply at that moment. Having seen this band in small dive venues throughout the tri-state area over the last few years, as many of those in attendance also had, you could feel the appreciation. It was in the way the band poured themselves into their instruments. It was the way Caleb’s voice went shrieking through the room like he was an angry minister trying to exercise the demons of “suck” out of our souls. And we were grateful for it. He was merely returning the sentiment.
Whether you’re a fan of the band or not, I know everyone appreciates showmanship, the feeling of giving a shit about how an audience leaves. This was a show. All I can say is these guys delivered in spades and everyone needs to check them out. Hell, they’ve got the fall leg of their tour coming up and new dates are being released regularly. I know I’ll be there. While small venues may provide for a more intimate show, these guys have deservedly earned the upgrade. And I think it’s safe for me to say goodbye to seeing them in some shitty 1000 seat venue. And I think they finally can too. They are the Kings of Leon.