With an average age of just 34, it’s hard to believe that WALLS is the Kings of Leon’s seventh studio album. It marks a continuation of the band’s sometimes uncomfortable journey from grungy, indie rebels to smooth stadium rockers.
The Followills (three brothers and a cousin) emerge at 8.45pm and progress from ‘Over’, a curious mid-tempo opening choice, into ‘The Bucket’ which feels like the real starting gun to the band’s three Dublin shows.
It’s a stripped-back, no frills production. Three over hanging screens frame the compact stage where the band are nearly within touching distance of each other. There’s little communication between them but it doesn’t matter. They’ve been playing arenas for a decade and you can tell. They’re slick, tidy and never miss a trick.
“We’re Kings of Leon,” says frontman Caleb before the opening notes of ‘Manhattan’, and the crowd show their appreciation.
Rousing renditions of ‘Fans’, led by Jared’s eminent bass line, and ‘Use Somebody’ are warmly received before a red, velvet curtain descends to signal an acoustic set. Caleb, left with just a guitar and a spotlight, delicately handles ‘The Runner’ and the new albums title track. Bearded and sweating heavily, his vocals are on point.
After three intimate numbers, the curtain is lifted to reveal a new stage with two extra musicians. ‘Find Me’ immediately benefits from the extra lighting and production value.
Perched on his drum riser, eldest brother Nathan is the band’s quarterback and powerhouse. He vigorously works the kit for ‘King of the Rodeo’, attempting to ‘melt some faces’ as he promised in a pre-show tweet.
Old favourite ‘Molly’s Chambers’ shows off cousin Matthew’s searing lead riffs while ‘Radioactive’ reminds us of the band’s preacher, Southern rock roots.
“We’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time” the crowd are told, and we believe it. A quick scan of previous set lists reveals that we’re getting a bit more than most.
‘Sex on Fire’ keeps the casual fans happy while ‘Waste a Moment’ rounds off an excellent set. Two hours and 27 songs later the band take a bow, toss their plectrums into the grateful crowd and exit stage left.
While criticism of their less ballsy recent albums may be justified, there’s no denying that Kings of Leon have evolved into seasoned pros and one hell of a live band.