Live Review: Royal Blood @ The BIC, Bournemouth (28/11/17)
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Two hours away from their hometown of Brighton, Royal Blood descended on the Dorset coastal town of Bournemouth to perform tinnitus-inducing rock and roll for the masses at the BIC (Bournemouth International Centre).
Forming in 2013, Royal Blood (Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher) have gone from support act to the headliners over the course of four years. The release of their debut record Royal Blood in 2014 propelled the duo into the rock conscious, performing at a plethora of festivals in 2014 (Reading and Leeds, Liverpool Sound City and BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend), eventually enabling them to open for Foo Fighters on their UK, US and Canadian tours in 2015.
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After the release of their second album – How Did We Get So Dark? – earlier this year, the band announced their first arena tour of the UK and Europe in support of the album, after supporting Queens of the Stone Age on the American leg of their Villains World Tour. Both Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters are a major influence on the duo’s style and sound, which transfers seamlessly into their live performances.
With support from fellow Brighton band Black Honey and legendary Texas-based punk band At the Drive-In, Royal Blood injected pure, chaotic rock into the arena that had been subjected to Steps the night before. The band entered the stage with little to no fanfare; just a good-old, killer playlist to aid the wait. Eventually, the magic hit as the lights went down (that never gets old), and the duo erupted into ‘Lights Out’.
Putting both studio albums together, the band have twenty songs to play with. That added to the numerous covers the band has performed meant for a gig that allowed both records to be covered with equal measure. Obviously, the hype surrounded How Did We Get So Dark? – ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ was just as magical and kickass as I’d hoped it to be live.
Judging by the crowd, however, tracks off their debut sent fans into a frenzy, furiously moshing and literally bouncing off railings – ‘Little Monster’, ‘Loose Change’, ‘Figure it Out’ and closer ‘Out of the Black’ seemed the most popular. Even sat in the balcony as I was, the energy flowed throughout the arena with the majority of us headbanging to the distortion and flat out carnage that Kerr and Thatcher are born to do.
That distortion got ahead of itself at times; a complaint that I’m beginning to have far too often with recent gigs. I like my music loud, don’t get me wrong, but the sound mixing seems to rely far too much on the instruments which in turn cause the microphones to become drowned out in feedback.
As I wear earplugs to many gigs I go to now, there is so much more clarity to the vocals once they’re in. And the added bonus is that once you walk out of a gig, you’re not greeted with the muffled ringing of tinnitus that has become so intertwined with live performances. As much as I love my music loud – and I’m sure most rock fans do, too – it comes to a point where its just too damn loud.
At least the stage presence of both Kerr and Thatcher detracted from the pain, riffing with the audience on the regular. Thatcher would appear and disappear from the drum kit, leading to a ‘walk on water’ moment between Thatcher and the crowd, which had many flinching in pain for both the fans hands holding Thatcher up, and Thatcher had to balance so delicately. Both flitted around the stage with reckless swagger, with Thatcher giving the health and safety officers a heart attack after lighting the striker/mallet on fire to ensure full theatrics amongst the crowd.
Many criticize Royal Blood for sticking to the same formula of a fuzzy, guttural riffs that seamlessly merge into each other. But both Kerr and Thatcher’s passion adds something unique to the mix that makes their sound utterly theirs.
They own it, and they’re letting everyone know about it.