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Concert Reviews:
Kings Of Leon On Fire At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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AUBURN HILLS -- Late in Kings of Leon's concert Tuesday night (Sept. 22) at the Palace, frontman Caleb Followill commented that "we ain't no...arena band. We're just in an arena."

But the Nashville modern rock quartet's 21-song, hour-and-45-minute show proved that it certainly belonged in the big leagues, much to the pleasure of the 7,500 who filled most of the floor and lower deck of the Palace (the upper level was not put on sale for this show).

Four albums in, Kings of Leon -- three brothers and a cousin -- have fashioned its own kind of Southern comfort blend of ambient rock, ala U2 and Coldplay, with pop-styled melodies and an almost prog-rock arrangement sensibilities. On Tuesday bassist Jared Followill danced around drummer Nathan's tricky rhythm patterns, while Caleb and cousin Matthew locked into an intricate interplay with their guitars. It's more ambitious than most Top 40 fare, but the Followills also have the looks to bring that crowd -- well over 50 percent female at the Palace -- to the party, too.

Kings of Leon had arena training from the best, of course, opening for U2 in 2005, and its popularity in Britain and Europe, which preceded the group's homeland breakthrough with last year's platinum "Only By Night" album, gave the band entre to the festival circuit. To celebrate its recent success the group came armed with a three-tiered light show that included an angled, multi-paneled video screen carrying close-ups of the band members and other song-enhancing images. The charisma, however, did not come from the plain-clothed band members but rather their performances -- taut and tight, filled with ambient tension and sober, earnest lyricism and accented by explosive choruses and bridges. Hits such as "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" -- two of 10 songs culled from "Only By Night" -- were expected crowd-pleasers, but Kings of Leon had those fans going from the thumping groove of "Crawl" and the propulsive energy of "Charmer," "Taper Jean Girl" and "Molly's Chambers," and they were singing along to lesser-known material such as "Revelry" and "Closer."

Kings of Leon also worked its provocatively airy magic on songs such as "Fans," "I Want You," "On Call," "Cold Desert" and "Trani," while Caleb used his brief "long speech" to deftly slide "Notion" into the atmospheric "Manhattan." And after the frontman teased "Should we play 'Sex on Fire' again," the group finished on a loud note, charging through the rootsy guitar blast of "Black Thumbnail."

Whether Kings of Leon is able to hold on to this moment is a question for the group's next album. On Tuesday it was simply time to watch a band enjoying what Caleb called "one of the best years of our lives" -- and making the most of it.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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