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Kings of Leon Review

Cloudy with a Chance of Rock

By Claire Taylor

A lousy crowd and/or venue can easily ruin a concertgoing experience, even if the band is phenomenal. This recent early September concert at the Warfield in San Francisco threatened to single-handedly drive me from ever attending a large concert again. The audience wasn't exceptionally rude; I've been to shows where fellow concertgoers shoved me around like a rag doll (being a small female, this isn't difficult to do) or danced with ridiculous and almost destructive levels of wild abandon. This evening's main frustration was the insane concentration of pot smoke that clogged nearly my every breath. I'll save the lecture, but I figure if cigarettes aren't allowed inside, joints shouldn't be, either. Thankfully, just as I was welling up with discomfort, I noticed a small corner spot next to the aisle and quickly swooped in to claim it as my own, finding a small semblance of fresh air and a clear view of the stage.

In summation, here is a poem I wrote: It was stuffy and hot / The room reeked of pot / Bright lights shone a lot / Fresh air hit the spot Kings of Leon (yes, that's what this review is actually about) stepped out onto the stage amid a cacophany of choral voices and crazed applause from the crowd. The quartet opened with "Charmer," the second song off the boys' most recent album, Because of the Times. Lead vocalist and guitarist Caleb Followill provocatively swiveled his hips, making movements slightly reminiscent of a toned-down Elvis. From the first notes, it was clear Kings of Leon could play their own songs—that the group isn't just another canned, manufactured act, all faces with no actual musicians. Halfway through the hour-plus set, Caleb commented that he and another band member had recently been sick. Judging from the boys' performance, one would never have suspected they weren't performing at their full capacity, as every song was played with energy. "My Party," also from the Kings' latest album, contains one of the most fun drum riffs in any song ever, and Nathan Followill played it spot on.

It was clear from the size of the crowd that Kings of Leon are on the cusp of major stardom, with a steadily growing and loyal fanbase. The audience members closer to the stage sang along with many of the songs, including "The Bucket" and "Taper Jean Girl," both from the band's second full-length album, Aha Shake Heartbreak. "If you guys want to sing along, feel free; we love that shit," Caleb said later in the set, as disco balls came down from the ceiling and the group started to play "On Call," the first single from Because of the Times.

One thing that took away from the Kings' performance was the unbearable lighting. As they hit driving, emotional points in their songs, bright white lights behind the group flashed and pulsated, blinding the audience. It was unclear if the lighting followed the Kings on tour of if it was property of the Warfield, but in either case it should be toned down. The light show also included various colored lights, which were less abrasive on the eyes while still adding that element of visual energy to the music. The thing is, the lighting spectacle was completely unnecessary because the band's music speaks for itself. Perhaps the Kings' music will get a more subtle visual treatment when they perform outdoors at the Dowload Festival, along with the Cure, A.F.I. and others, on Saturday, October 6.

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