Royal Blood

Words By: Gerrod Harris

Foo Fighters fans who were unlucky enough not to have got tickets (like myself) for either of their sold out Toronto dates were certainly in for a treat if they caught Royal Blood perform at Tattoo Queen West on Thursday, July 9th. Royal Blood, who are touring with the Foo Fighters through most of their summer North American dates, decided to play a second gig for that night, following their opening set for the Foo’s at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.

Local Toronto Band, The Beverleys, opened the show with a loud, bass heavy, thirty minute set. Unfortunately for The Beverleys, the audience was not enjoying their set.   The old school punk inspired trio barraged the club with an array of overly distorted power chords and rough, raspy vocals which did not allow for any note, chord or lyrical clarity. Their songs featured similar textures and tones which blended them all together, making it difficult to differentiate where one ended, and the next began. About two thirds through their set, a large chant calling for Royal Blood to take the stage rivaled the volume of the band. Overall, I was not a fan of their performance, but they seemed to enjoy themselves.

As a new upcoming band, Royal Blood are off to a fantastic start in their career. After receiving favorable reviews for their incredibly impressive debut album, Royal Blood, an album which was also certified platinum in less than a year’s time (no small feat, especially in today’s musical climate), a number of large festival appearances, a BRIT Award for best British group, and some very kind words from rock icons Dave Grohl and Jimmy Page, my expectations for the duo were high. Their hour long set far exceeded my expectations, proving that bassist/vocalist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher are worth all their praise and more. Walking on the stage to Jay Z’s “99 Problems”, Royal Blood opened their set with the explosive “Come On Over”. With his bass slung as low as it could go, Kerr strutted around the tiny stage, often holding his bass in various poses often affiliated with different guitar heroes (in the air, and sometimes behind his head). Even Thatcher carried himself with much charisma, something which is often lost on drummers, as he would frequently leave his raised drum riser and gesture to the crowd from the front of the stage. Between the two of them, they had the stage presence fit for a typical band of four or five people.

The band blasted through their entire record, Royal Blood, with the exception of “Careless”. All songs were performed very well, but most notably their hit, “Figure It Out”, “You Can Be So Cruel”, “Little Monster” and “Loose Change”. It is in their faster, heavier tracks where their performance really shines. Of their slower tunes, “Better Strangers” was their best. The audience was more than happy by their performance, singing along to each chorus and cheering with excitement when the riff of the next song was first played. It was interesting to see that most people at the show, much like myself, had devoured their record as they were clearly familiar with more than just the few singles. It was not uncommon for them to play short interludes in between songs, resembling their style of riffs and song writing, which leads me to speculate that they have begun working on their sophomore record. Their set came to a climatic close with “Out Of The Black”. The song was played with a haunting riff serving as a prelude to the rest of the song. Rather than continue with their recorded ending, Thatcher played his large drum fill which led into a bass solo. Thatcher took this time to surf the crowd as Kerr laid on the stage floor and let loose on his bass. When Thatcher returned to his kit, they carried on with the song’s conclusion, and breaking out some more, previously unheard riffery, with the addition of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” for good measure. This then led into a big rock ending where Kerr played his bass with one hand and took a drum stick to aid Thatcher’s cymbal smashing explosion.

All in all, Royal Blood, for lack of a more fitting phrase, kicked ass! Just as on the album, Thatcher’s drums are tight, laying down heavy grooves and larger than life fills, while Kerr’s bass sounds full, just as if there was a guitar joining him. His voice is also just as smooth and at times chilling. As a newer band, it is always key to make sure they can actually perform their set with the degree of skill heard on the album, as some artists really are better in the studio than they are on the stage. I can confidently say Royal Blood had exceeded their already incendiary record by bringing life to their songs at Tattoo Queen West. I look forward to see what Royal Blood create on their following albums, as their set showed that they certainly have what it takes to become one of modern rock’s biggest bands.

Royal Blood’s Set List:

1: Come On Over

2: You Can Be So Cruel

3: Figure It Out

4: Better Strangers

5: Little Monster

6: Blood Hands

7: One Trick Pony

8: Ten Tonne Skeleton

9: Loose Change

10: Out Of The Black

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