Nashville rockers Kings of Leon were in top form at Sleep Train Amphitheater on March 22.
It’s amazing how a crowd — especially the people in your immediate vicinity — can color your concert going experience. At the Followill family band’s Sleep Train show, it was a little tough to concentrate: the couple in front of me was basically having sex with their clothes on throughout the concert; behind me, a trio of girls insisted of singing — or rather, shouting — off-key, every word to every song. The pod of friends to the right of me just took selfies and texted the whole time. Somewhat surprisingly, two guys to my left were the only people near me paying attention.
Kings of Leon also got off to a rocky start. When the band opened up with the charmer “Charmer,” off 2007’s Because of Times, Caleb Followill’s voice was very raspy and didn’t handle his emblematic “screech” so well. One concerned audience member said, “I always want to see what a singer can do with a mic in a live setting, and this isn’t a good start.”
Things got a lot better after that, though, and the rest of the songs sounded great — with Caleb’s voice in top form. Not surprisingly, the band mostly played songs off of their latest album, 2013’s Mechanical Bull, but they also struck a nice balance — with plenty of songs from their past efforts.
After playing 8 songs, Caleb said, “Thank you very much, I feel like the energy is a little low tonight, so we are going to pick it up a little bit.” The band then played a set of some of their simplest, most heartfelt, and well written songs incuding “Back Down South” and “Wait For Me.” When the band keeps it simple and does away with the overproduction on vocals and guitars, they really shine; Caleb’s voice is perfectly suited for these types of songs. Caleb introduced “Milk” by saying, “I wrote this song in California. Everytime I hear it, I think of California. It’s very special to sing it here.”
On the other hand, Kings of Leon do raucous rock ‘n roll very well, too. They followed the mellow set with a solid run of high energy songs, including the anthemic crowd favorite “Tonight,” “Radioactive,” “The Bucket,” “Molly’s Chambers,” and “Four Kicks.”
The video production throughout the show was mesmerizing and suited the songs very well. For “Milk,” images of a milk-like substance changed shape and swooshed around; for “Pyro,” there was an image of warm, flickering flames and giant clouds of smoke; for “Supersoaker,” they had a black and white video of burlesque dancers and strippers from the 1940s and ’50s
Just before the set closer, “Use Somebody,” Caleb Followill said, “We have to go back to Los Angeles tonight,” and the crowd booed.
“Crawl,” “Black Thumbnail,” and “Sex on Fire” rounded out the band’s three-song encore set. Thanking the crowd, Caleb said, “It really is good to be here in this beautiful weather. No Polar Vortex. I’m so glad you beautiful people are here with us.”
Los Angeles’ indie favorites Local Natives opened the show. Their sound is heavy in the sense that it has a tom-tom drumming kind of feel, yet their vibe is mellow, harmonic, and electronic. The last song of their set, “Sun Hands” really hooked the crowd.
Kings of Leon at Sleep Train Amphitheater