Right: Kings of Leon (photo by Statia Molewski)
In the need of a break from our daily routine, my wife and I decided to catch up on some live music, so we headed to Louisville, Kentucky to catch the Kings of Leon. I first stumbled upon the band in the pages of Mojo magazine, my trusted British music journal. As described in the article, the Kings of Leon are made up of three brothers and one cousin from the Followill family. The three brothers were raised in a fundamentalist Christian family in Tennessee where music was a constant Part of their lives. At some point, someone gave one of the brothers a Lou Reed album, and all went to hell. With this information in hand, I easily talked my wife into seeing what all the hoopla was about.
Upon arriving in Louisville and promptly getting lost trying to find the club due to the wonderful website Mapquest, we pulled into the parking lot, met Caleb Followill, the lead singer, and dashed into the club to see some band absolutely blow the stage apart while covering “That’s Alright Mama” but with a wee bit more oomph, Keith Moon style. This was my introduction to the Australian band Jet. More about them later….
Now for the Kings of Leon, The Kings of Leon are a damn fine live act. Forget all the family tree issues and enjoy the band. The focal point of the band is definitely Caleb Followill. The only way that I can describe his performance is to tell you to visualize the love child of Hank Williams Sr. and James Brown. Now this makes no sense at all until you put the lyrics, the movements of the feet, and the wounded animal screams together in one package. I do not want to give the singer all the credit, because you can tell by the laser beam stare that Nathan Followill, the drummer, is the general on stage. What I mean by this is that he keeps the beat, looks for problems of a technical nature, and will threaten to whip an audience member’s ass in a second if that person does anything to hinder the bands performance. I saw this happen, and it was a joy to watch. The boys might try to shirk their Southern heritage in interviews, but Nathan’s threat to an audience member for pulling on the cords was straight out of a Dash Rip Rock gig at Georgia Southern during a frat party.
Visually, the band is somewhat confusing to watch. Bass player, Jared Followill, and guitarist, Matthew Followill, are between the ages of 17 to 19, which is a problem. While Caleb Followill takes you on a Southern gothic journey that would make Flannery O’Connor proud, you’ve got these two teenagers on bass and guitar smiling smiles as big as humanly possible. It is not their fault. These guys are members of a band that can fill thousand to two thousand seaters throughout the UK and are currently on tour with The Strokes in the US. When asked how life on the road is going, their smiles tell more than any words can.
Not much I can critical about these guys. No matter what I have to say, your eyes will always go back to the tortured , writhing figure at the mike. Never smiling. Never satisfied.
Jet – Nashville – The Next Night
Based upon the few minutes we saw of Jet opening for the Kings of Leon, my wife and I ditched our plans to see the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and headed south to Nashville. Having a chance to talk to the members of Jet before the show, it was nice to some people in their early 20s who are not singing about the tortured lives of adolescents or reincarnated versions of Weezer that will not be here as of yesterday. These guys truly love all that is rock: swinging rhythm, hummable tunes, and audacious stage behavior. Unlike most American bands, these Australians have paid their live dues in small clubs fro a number of years now. They know how to work a crowd. Put it this way. Their live reputation was such that they were asked to open for the Stones in Australia when they only had a self-financed EP in the music stores. When I asked drummer, Chris Cester, what it was like to open for the Stones, he looked at me and said,”I got to meet Malcolm and Angus.” Point taken.
After sitting through the 22-20s, another fine unknown American band kicking up dust in England, Jet hit the stage with the Cester Brothers harmonizing on the song “Move On”, an acoustic number made for a soundtrack somewhere. Then, Chris Cester chunks the tambourine, hops behind the kit, Mark Wilson stomps his feet to set the pace, Cam takes his place with his flying V, Nic Cester squares off with the mic, and boom, they’re off! Hell yeah! Cold Hard Bitch, Rollover Dj, Hey Kids, and on and on until we come full circle to the faithful rendition of “That’s Alright Mama!” which evolves into a thrashing exorcism of the demon known as rock. Do not miss the chance to see these guys live in the clubs. Period.