Awwwww cute. Pic by Rob Trucks.
Kings of Leon
Madison Square Garden
Thursday, January 29
Here we have one of those Holy Shit We’re Playing Madison Square Garden shows, always a charming event — what little banter KOL frontman Caleb Followill offers is of the “This is one of the biggest, best moments of my life right here” variety. We are sincerely thanked for “Getting on your little websites and spreading the word” (no problem, dogg); most notably, there’s the declaration that “We have the best fans in the world — one of the last true fanbases, I think.” Whoa now. Let’s not get carried away.
Not getting carried away is the Kings’ specialty: theirs is an immaculately uncluttered, vaguely Southern, delicately raucous style of rock, somewhat hedonistic but oddly sedate. (“Sex on Fire” is catchy, but far too timid to evoke either actual sex or actual fire.) Tonight they split the difference between badass and businesslike, blowing through 17 songs in their first hour, occasionally cranking up the fuzz bass, unleashing the strobe lights, settling into a (politely) nasty Motörhead* chug, etc., but mostly these are Gossip Girl makeout scene anthems, rousing and soaring, but not so much as to wake/offend the neighbors. The actually quite awesome “Use Somebody” gets at it best, stealing the oh-whoa-oh chorus from U2, and the maximum-drama chord progression from Coldplay.
That one alone truly filled MSG, but a cooing/shrieking/hooting crowd took care of the rest; perhaps most of this band’s charisma, danger, sex, and fire is simply outsourced to their fans. The poor gentleman loudly puking in a bathroom stall during the encore is as positive review as you could ever hope to receive.
* Side note: If you’re using the iPhone’s notepad and you start typing “Motörhead,” it will auto-correct to add the umlaut.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2009