“Ya’ll don’t sound like a Sunday night crowd,” Caleb Followill announces in his Southern drawl about half way through the second of his band’s three nights at the 3 Arena. The man has a point. The atmosphere inside the venue is as boozy and loose limbed as any Nashville dive bar or honky-tonk in the wee hours of the morning. To be fair, Kings of Leon are known to have this effect on Irish crowds. Having built a rabid fanbase as Oxegen’s house band in the mid-noughties, the Followill brood are one of the few rock groups that can still pack a house regardless of the constrictions of 9-5s.
Though the jury remains out as they take to the stage. In recent years, the band have been said to be on rocky ground, with rumours of discontent within the clan swirling and a number of lacklustre festival performances meaning they are no longer the guaranteed live draw they were once considered to be.
We need not have worried however. After a stomping ‘Around the World’, the band quickly tear through Aha Shake Heartbreak standouts ‘The Bucket’, ‘Slow Night, So Long’ and ‘Four Kicks’ ensuring that both old and new fans are onside.
A few of the hardcore early followers are present here tonight, but the majority of the crowd’s ears appear to have first been pricked during the Only by the Night era, where the band perfected the art of the radio smash. There are no shortage of these here tonight either with ‘Use Somebody’, ‘Sex on Fire’, ‘Fans’ and ‘Radioactive’ all leading to mass drawl-alongs.
A short acoustic interlude sees the band perform a suitably wounded ‘Milk’ that shows Caleb can still howl away with the best of them. After a somewhat limp ‘WALLS’, the curtain drops and we are introduced to a new high tech stage design that befits the U2-sized arena rock stratosphere that the band has existed in for the past decade or so. Now backed by a series of strobes and flashing lights, the likes of Because of the Times highlights ‘On Call’ and ‘Knocked Up’ sound massive.
The band appear to be enjoying themselves throughout. In Talahina Sky, their 2011 documentary, the band were captured at breaking point, wrestling with their success, as well as the usual druggy excesses that came part and parcel with being an arena rock act. The band seem to have weathered these stormy waters and engage with the crowd throughout, telling the crowd they consider themselves 50% Irish before dedicating ‘Molly’s Chamber’ to Thin Lizzy.
“I love you, Colm,” shouts one drunken attendee in the direction of Caleb, taking the singer’s mention of his Irish roots a little too literally perhaps. The band close with recent WALLS’ single ‘Waste a Moment’ and don’t return for an encore. The crowd is left with a slight feeling of anti-climax but it doesn’t erase the memories of the highs that have come beforehand.
Though some of us might dream of a world where the Followill’s never discovered hairdressers and stylists and remained the fearsome bearded, bourbon-drenched four-piece who we first glimpsed in the early 2000s, there is still much to enjoy in their current incarnation. There’s life in the good old boys yet.
Kings of Leon photographed by Paulo Gonçalves