I went to see Kings of Leon at Mesa Amphitheater last night, and they blew me the fuck away. The opening act was the Walkmen, and they were fairly good—they were much more talented than most openers I’ve seen, with a good vocalist and a solid backing band, but the difference between them and Kings of Leon was palpable.
I shouldn’t be surprised, given that I’ve previously compared Kings of Leon to Bob Dylan, but it’s always an astonishing moment to stumble upon an artist with the presence. You know what I mean—there are musicians (and writers and painters and even politicians) who do more than play music: who create a living atmosphere for the people around them, who create an entire universe out of the things they feel and see, and who bring you into that universe and make you a part of it. It’s always a small miracle.
The band was having trouble hearing themselves; Caleb Followill kept mentioning it apologetically, saying it was “one of those nights when you walk on the stage and everything goes wrong.” And sure, they dragged a little, and drummer Nathan did his damndest to correct it subtly, like a drummer should, and Matthew, who normally sets everything in motion and never drops it like some magical harmonic juggler, seemed to pretty desperately need his cigarette by the end of the night, but if that’s what they sound like when everything is going wrong then they truly have the gift. Because I was there, in the Kings of Leon universe, and nothing took me out of it. Even a bad night was saved by the intrinsic energy of the songs; exuberance is written into them like a diamond in a setting, and honestly the whole experience was sex in a medicine cup—a strong fucking dose that leaves you shaking your head and wincing, but cured of your ills. Couples everywhere were making out by the end of the set, and I don’t think it was just the beer.
(Just as an aside, if Jared Followill should ever desire to give in to the evolutionary inclination to reproduce, I totally volunteer my healthy and fine-boned Eastern European genes for the task. Let me know if you need my qualifying credentials.)
So, yeah, if you get the chance to see Kings of Leon live, do it, because even on a bad night they will impress.