Royal Blood / Turbowolf. Dublin Academy, 27 October 2014.
Royal Blood truly are the band of the moment. Tonight in Dublin, they more than lived up to the hype in what will probably prove to be their final run of dates in such intimate confines.
There can be few more exciting acts to emerge in the last few years than Royal Blood. Combining the raw garage rock sounds of Queens of The Stone Age with the minimalist approach of The White Stripes, the Brighton duo have made a considerable impact since forming in 2013. Reaching new heights this year with the release of their debut album ‘Little Monster’, which topped the charts in both the UK and Ireland, it’s not just in album sales that the band are riding the crest of a wave. An in-demand concert draw, tonight in Dublin, on the opening night of a sell-out fifteen date tour, they sealed their reputation as the must-see a live act of 2014.
Before Royal Blood took to the stage however, the crowd were treated to a set by Brighton four-piece Turbowolf. In what could have been - forgivably given the circumstances - a thankless task, the alt-rockers proved to be a canny choice of opening act. Led by the charismatic Chris Georgiadis whose part-Justin Hawkins (hair, RAF-pilot’s ‘tache, quick-fire wit), part-Brett Anderson (skinny physique, slightly effeminate posturing) shtick was a joy to watch, the band’s brand of dirty garage rock was the perfect start to the night. With pounding rhythms, distorted bass and piercing vocals, accentuated by an added a touch of psychedelic keyboards here and there, songs like ‘Rabbit’s Foot’ and ‘Solid Gold’ showed that the band are worthy of headline status in their own right. Georgiadis’ comically off-kilter remarks meanwhile added a touch of humour, and by the end of their criminally short set, he had the entire audience on side.
On any other night, with any other band, Turbowolf could have stolen the show, however, there was no doubt that tonight belonged to Royal Blood. As the house lights went down and the intro tape of Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’ began, Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher strode onto the stage to a rapturous welcome. As the controlled feedback of Kerr’s bass gave way to opening notes of the lesser known and low down and dirty ‘Hole’, from their ‘Out Of The Black’ EP, the place erupted. It was quickly followed by the more familiar ‘Come On Over’ and ‘You Can Be So Cruel’ from this year’s debut, and as the energy levels in the room exploded, the crowd sang along to every word, the occasional guitar riff, and bounced to every stomping beat.
Singer Kerr’s suave cool was matched only by his implausible abilities as a musician. It was incredible to think that just one man was making so many multi-faceted and multi-layered sounds from only one bass guitar and a dizzying array of foot pedals. Performing simultaneous duties as bass, rhythm and lead guitarist, as well as singing, Kerr’s unique position was truly fascinating. Anchored by the pounding rock-steady beats of Thatcher, the noise the band made was exceptional, and it was sometimes hard to believe that there were only two players on stage, and not four or five.
While musically the show was faultless, visually too, it was impressive. Moodily backlit, with occasional spotlighting, as well as crowd-blinding strobe flashes, the light show accentuated each musical nuance as the pair worked their way through every song from ‘Little Monster’. Among the many highlights of the night were recent single ‘Figure It Out’, which saw the entire ground floor bouncing in unison, a razor-sharp ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ and the monstrously heavy ‘Little Monster’ itself. By the closing staccato riffage and snare drum stabs of ‘Out Of The Black’ however, the two-piece were truly on fire, and as the song neared its end, Thatcher leapt from his stool and jumped into the crowd. It was a thrilling move that saw the drummer struggle to make it back on stage in time for the track’s finale. Thankfully, with some helping hands from the crowd, he did so without missing a beat.
And with that it was all over. Less than an hour after they first arrived on stage, Royal Blood took their bows. Having played all of their available material, and dispensing with the usual cliché of an encore, their show, like their songs was short, sharp and sweet. Royal Blood do things their way, and have a rare commodity in an act that is uniquely theirs. Acknowledging their meteoric rise, Kerr earlier thanked the crowd, admitting that ‘this party is escalating’. He’s not wrong, and when they return to Dublin next March as part of a wider and much larger scale tour, it will be for two nights at the much bigger Olympia Theatre. Those lucky enough to have caught them in tonight however in more intimate confines, will be talking about it for years to come. Those that weren’t will pretend they were here. Believe the hype.
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 27 October 2014.