Kings of Leon Leeds review : An inspired show despite early 'Sex on Fire' outing at First Direct Arena

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“An excellent start can ultimately lead to a major disappointment.”

It’s a sentiment that will have been on the minds of many in Leeds after England’s dismal performance against Denmark, which saw them gradually and thoroughly regress after Harry Kane’s early goal.

And so when Kings of Leon pluck out mega, mega big hit Sex On Fire - typically served up as a rousing finale strategically built up to - within 30 minutes of their set at the First Direct Arena and bring the crowd into a rapture amiss up until that point, there’s some concern over where it will go from there.

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Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon at the First Direct Arena in LeedsCaleb Followill of Kings of Leon at the First Direct Arena in Leeds
Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon at the First Direct Arena in Leeds | First Direct Arena

It’s not totally unwarranted either. The Americana rock big hitters - made up of brothers Caleb, Jared and Nathan Followill and cousin Matthew - started the show strong, kicking off with whimsical new track Ballerina Radio and the plodding grit of On Call. Next is perhaps the defining track of their initial ‘Southern Strokes’ phase, The Bucket. It gets a particularly vivid response from one fan gyrating against the barrier and exercising the sort of theatrical devotion perhaps more suited to the sermons of the Followill patriarch - a Christian ministry life the Followills were brought up around.

The band’s penchant for awkward missteps begins to seep in though, particularly during Nothing To Do and Party, during which a trio with handheld cameras circle around the group and the fuzzy footage is projected to create an Old Grey Whistle Test aesthetic. But while the tunes are deserving of the punky visuals, it’s almost comically at odds with the band’s steely stage presence and the crowd’s nonchalant reaction.

But the brave early outing for Sex On Fire after proves an inspired move. Once the crowd has burst into life and the elephant sized tune is out of the room, there’s no turning back.

Kings of Leon at the First Direct Arena in LeedsKings of Leon at the First Direct Arena in Leeds
Kings of Leon at the First Direct Arena in Leeds | First Direct Arena

While there are still some questionable gimmicks - like hesitant frontman Caleb shuffling to either side of the stage to sing a couple for no great discernible reason - and a few clunky numbers, the whiskey-soaked bangers hold up no end.

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Volleyed forward by aforementioned frontman Caleb’s throat ripping vocals, tracks like the turgid Molly’s Chambers, blinkered King Of The Rodeo and throttling Radioactive are timeless indie grooves.

Then there’s the other singalongs. Warmed by SoF, the cacophonous responses that greet Pyro and Wait For Me are downright spine-tingling, while Back Down South finds the Kings at their most relatable and earthly again.

The elaborate setup’s confliction with the the band’s static demeanour isn’t totally without its merits, as well. The church-window-shaped screens, sharp visuals and elaborate lighting make for a captivating experience; one that compliments the new songs from their back-to-form new, ninth album ‘Can We Please Have Some Fun’ (love the irony, lads).

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The encore sees the group start with one of the album’s more misplaced tracks, but the experimental meanderings of Rainbow Ball are soon followed by the group’s OTHER mega hit, ‘Use Somebody’ which as you’d expect, doesn’t go down badly.

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