Review / setlist: Kings of Leon, the Black Keys at Tampa's 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre
Kings of Leon are running out of mountains to climb.
They've gone from headlining clubs to headlining arenas and amphitheatres. They've gone from being a plucky, rascally Tennessee family to being a Grammy-winning, multiplatinum-selling, clothing-line-hocking, Very Important Band.
Now they have to figure out how to stay there.
If Saturday's concert at Tampa's 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre was any indication, Kings of Leon are on the right path. Nearly 15,000 fans witnessed a 90-minute show that was dynamic in its versatility -- grungy in some places, soulful and southern in others, anthemic and euphoric when times called for it. And in today's musical landscape, times often do.
Album by album, track by track, Kings of Leon are amassing a catalog designed to prove they belong alongside the Coldplays, the Pearl Jams, the Foo Fighters of the world. In fact, their 20-song setlist Saturday showed off such a diverse skill set, from grunge to classic rock to old-school outlaw country, that you might think you were watching a revolving lineup of bands. (Saturday's show opened with three songs -- Crawl, Molly's Chambers and My Party -- that, in a live setting, called to mind early-'90s U2.)
For a band with such massive radio airplay over the past two years, it's odd that the first massive singalong didn't come until the fifth song, the joyfully bouncy, fist-pumping, hand-clapping Fans. That one was worth the wait, though, as no Kings of Leon song makes better use of Caleb Followill's distinctive drunken country-boy yelp.
Kings of Leon played a few tracks from their next album, Come Around Sundown, due in October -- and if they're any indication of things to come, don't expect the band to go away anytime soon. Pyro may be the most traditional pop song in Kings of Leon's catalog, a mix of rolling, shimmering guitars, bells and Followill's cascading vocals. Back Down South is another driving, sparkling smash in the making; it sounds like a crossover country hit waiting to happen.
But it'll be at least a few months before the world is sick of Come Around Sundown. For now, fans were content to drink and dance themselves into a frenzy during the band's most massive hits -- The Bucket, Sex On Fire and Use Somebody. You'd think that last one would be a slam-dunk set-closer, but the band instead followed it with the electric Black Thumbnail, sticking the landing with a massive explosion of pyrotechnics at the end.
Yep, when you reach this part of the mountain, it's either go big or go home. Kings of Leon believe they're here to stay, and they're not afraid to blow stuff up to prove it.
Before Kings of Leon hit the stage, Akron, Ohio's Black Keys did everything they could to fill the Gary with the sound of one guitar and one drum kit. These miscreant love children of the Roots and White Stripes blasted through 11 tracks of blues-rock fury, from the punkish Your Touch and I Got Mine to the irresistable funk of Next Girl and Tighten Up.
It was odd to see two guys hold such sway over an Amphitheatre's worth of fans (to be fair, the Keys were backed up by two other musicians for half the set), but such is the power of drummer Patrick Carney and singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach, who I'm quickly becoming convinced might be America's most underrated bluesmen. With a minimialist stage setup, it was clear that the Keys knew their place on Saturday's bill. But throw them up against Kings of Leon in a Battle of the Bands, and it'd be tough to bet against them.
If Kings of Leon and the Black Keys are the present of American rock 'n' roll, The Whigs, from Athens, Ga., may just be its future. Imagine a punkier Oasis raised on a diet of Southern rock instead of the Beatles, and filling their sets with shimmying, stage-diving and scissor-kicking -- does that sound like something you'd be interested in? Then check out the Whigs the next time they come to town.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Luis Santana, tbt*
KINGS OF LEON SETLIST: Crawl, Molly's Chambers, My Party, Mary, Fans, Revelry, Closer, Pyro, Four Kicks, The Bucket, Notion, Radioactive, Sex On Fire, On Call, Back Down South, Trani ... ENCORE: Knocked Up, Manhattan, Use Somebody, Black Thumbnail
BLACK KEYS SETLIST: I'll Be Your Man, Strange Times, Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Chop and Change, Howlin' For You, Tighten Up, She's Long Gone, Ten Cent Pistol, Your Touch, I Got Mine