While most of us probably take it for granted, you have to admit that the Olympia Theatre is an impressive building. It’s probably quite intimidating for a band too, especially if you’re not used to playing places of such stature. Royal Blood don’t say an awful lot tonight, but do remark that it’s a “privilege to play this epic room”. Last time they were here, only in October, they were in the Academy. Now we’re talking two sold out nights on Dame St, a development repeated across the UK and Europe. Royal Blood – Brit Award sat on a mantlepiece somewhere – are clearly on a roll.
Whether they’re up to the task is less obvious. Despite the massiveness of their sound (and what Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher are able to achieve with mere bass and drums is incredible), the pair often feel dwarfed tonight. What was most noticeable from their stunning Brits performance was how they connected they were, almost right on top of each other, but here there’s an expanse of stage between them and all that intensity is lost. That thread follows throughout the gig, as a noticeable lull follows each track. With little stage craft to speak of and only a small amount of interaction, the lights drop, the audience shuffle around chatting and you can feel the energy being sucked out of the room. It also doesn’t help that a lot of their material isn’t very good. For all the power behind them, a lack of melody renders the effect of – as Idlewild were once described – a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs. To have witnessed them in a club was most probably incredible, but on this scale the shortcomings are unavoidable.
All that said, there are moments when Royal Blood manage to shine tonight and they come when all the stars align. They do have a handful of memorable tunes and, when these hit, the combination of the band’s musical prowess, audience energy and the setting itself is pretty damn impressive. The Rage Against The Machine intro to ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ final opens the floodgates and for the last fifteen minutes (of a set that lasts just over an hour anyway), Royal Blood actually do become the band that everyone seems to want them to be, rather than one who have been promoted to the big league ahead of time. They’ll get there though, they just need to grow up in public.
Royal Blood photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko