I used to love them.
Kings of Leon and I go way back. I first saw the band play in Sweden in July of 2003, only a week before their first LP, ‘Youth & Young Manhood’, hit the shelves. It was at a small festival in Malmö and they were young and fired up, giving a really enjoyable performance. After the show, a couple of friends and I ran into the band and had a brief chat—they even gave me a copy of the ‘Holy Roller Novocaine’ EP that they’d released earlier that year. I went on to like their first album, and positively love the second one—however, after their fourth release, ‘Only By The Night’ (when they went into full-on U2 mode, making a successful run for the big leagues), I stopped listening to them altogether. Not my bag.
At Laugardalshöll, Kings of Leon played a variety of songs, but, sadly, only a handful of tracks from their 2003 debut and its 2004 follow-up, ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’ (their best work by far). Performing in front of a huge L.E.D. screen that showed everything from psychedelic splashing paint to retro beach footage, the band started the night with “Supersoaker” from their most recent album. They followed up with “Taper Jean Girl” from ‘Aha Shake Heartbreak’ and “Fans” from 2007’s ‘Because of the Times’. The show’s highlight was easily their rendition of “The Bucket” from ‘Aha’, but after that there was nothing that really impressed me.
The night came to an end with the band playing its biggest hits, with five of the last six songs coming from 2008’s U2-alike ‘Only By The Night’. The biggest crowd reaction came when they launched into one of the last decade’s worst songs, “Use Somebody,” which signalled the end of the main set. As the crowed started cheering for more, the band sent their roadies up on stage to tune their instruments in what proved a weird, and kind of lame spectacle. The band then predictably wrapped up their three-song encore with “Sex on Fire,” giving the people what they came for.
Kings of Leon took a very workmanlike arena rock approach to their ninety-minute set, giving a show that ultimately proved safe, mediocre and by the numbers. Indeed, a quick bout of post-show research revealed that the setlist had been nearly identical to the one they have been performing for the last couple of years.
Oh, what fun it seems, to be a king.