Royal Blood proves rock isn’t dead

When hard rock legend Jimmy Page, former lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, speaks highly of a band, you know it’s good. When he says that your band is taking rock into a new territory, drop everything and listen.

Royal Blood is garage rock/hard rock band that has a sound best described as a mix of Jack White riffs with Arctic Monkeys vocals and the effects and tone of Audioslave. Hailing from Brighton, England, Royal Blood consists of the duo Mike Kerr (vocals/bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums). They released their self-titled debut album to mostly positive reviews in 2014, when they charted number one in Ireland and the UK (and charted 8, 3, and 2 for Top Rock Albums, Top Hard Rock Albums, and Top Alternative Albums on billboard in the US, respectively).

Along with Page, many other famous musicians (such as Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins) have praised the band and also have described them as the future of hard rock.

Opening for Royal Blood was Los Angeles indie pop/glam rock band Mini Mansions. Formed in 2009 by Queens of Stone Ages’ current bassist Michael Shuman (who plays vocals/drums/guitar for Mini Mansions), they released their self-titled debut album in 2010. They are on tour with Royal Blood to promote their recent album “The Great Pretenders.” They started the night with a cover of Spark’s “Sherlock Holmes,” and kept the crowd interested by playing a variety of songs; some sounded like dance music, others had a ballad style. Also included in the set list was a cover of Blondie’s hit single “Heart of Glass.”

Shuman was the most energetic member in the band and did not have a seat for his drumming duties. He wore a guitar for the occasional fill ins, but bassist Zach Dawes was more of a lead guitar player than Shuman,with bass fill ins that are normally reserved for the lead guitar. Keyboard/vocalist duties were performed by Tyler Parkford.

They ended their night with the feel-good happy song titled (ironically) “Freakout!”

Royal Blood opened with the heavy metal track “Come on Over.” The crowd was very into the music, and by the third song (the punk-styled “Figure it Out”) a mosh pit began to form and continued throughout almost the entirety of the concert.

What makes Royal Blood unique live is the fact that the duo has no session musicians on stage with them. Royal Blood is able to imitate a full band on stage with only a bass player and drummer. Simplistic yet effective, even their studio versions of their songs contain no synthesizers or overdubs (meaning most of the album was recorded in one take) . Kerr plays his bass as though he’s a lead guitar player. Even his amplifiers that he used are amps used by “normal” guitarists. And unlike Dawe, Kerr also included face-melting solos. Because of this, there was not much bass heard during their songs.

My job is to make sure you have a f–king good time,” Kerr said halfway through their set list. “And I’m the only one that can do that. Who’s ready to go f–king ape sh-t!?” he asked and was answered by the screams of the crowd.

Before their final song, Kerr played a doom metal riff repeatedly and pointed to specific parts of the audience between the riff to see which part was loudest. By the end, he brought both hands up and there was not a single person not cheering. They then performed their final song, “Out of the Black” with an extended ending. Kerr thanked the audience for being a great crowd and wished them a good night while the feedback from his bass continued ringing.

Despite the small size of the Murray Theater, there was no compromise in the visuals. Spotlights resembling lasers flashed throughout the night, and it would have been easy to confuse Royal Blood as a much bigger band than they really are. Even people hanging towards the back were either head nodding or dancing.

Although rock music has steadily declined in the past two decades, it is not dead yet. Even though rock album sales will never chart as high as they used to, the spirit of rock will always remain in live concerts. Royal Blood will either be recognized as one of the last great rock bands to come or the saviors of rock, allowing it to thrive for decades. Give them a few years and a hit radio single and you’re looking at rock’s next big thing.

c.ayers@chronicle.utah.edu

@ChronyArts

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