Kings of Leon

The Greek Theatre, September 7, 2007

By Jonah Flicker

When did the Kings of Leon hire a rock stylist? As they took the stage at the Greek Theatre this past Friday night, the once long-haired, Southern-fried throwback-rockers were sporting a look straight from the boy-band handbook. Maybe I’m a little jealous of their comely visages and coiffed hair, but it was kind of disconcerting to hear Caleb Followill’s soulful, scratchy voice coming from such a pretty mug. I may miss the long locks and dirty jeans, but it’s really about the music, right? And in that department, they delivered. One of the best things about KOL is the way they expand upon the blues and Southern rock that comprises the base of their music into the territory of minimalist post-punk. Maybe this makeover is part of the process.

After taking the stage to some melodramatic opera, the boys launched into the bluesy “Black Thumbnail,” from their new album, Because of the Times, following it up with the wailing “Charmer.” One of the best rock singles of the year is “On Call,” which the band performed near the end of their 17-song set. Built for crowd participation, its simple melodic refrain (“To be there!”) was joyously picked up by the audience, drunk on Friday night, the starry sky, and $10-beers. The blindingly tight “King of the Rodeo” and spirited “The Bucket,” off 2004’s angular Aha Shake Heartbreak (their best), were the work of a band clearly road-tested and comfortable in front of such a big crowd.

Some habits of note, both charming and disgusting: very limited stage banter and Brother Nathan blowing bubbles with his gum as he cracked his snare (cool), Brother Jared’s constant spitting towards the side of the stage (gross). But it’s Brother Caleb’s sweet voice and silly lyrics that stole the show. It’s not easy to make lines like, “She had problems drinking milk and being school tardy,” (“Milk”) sound utterly heartfelt, but they did. The encore began with “Knocked Up,” the bold, meandering lead track from Because, and Caleb once again proved his ability to make lyrical tripe sound earnest. “I don’t care what nobody says, we’re gonna have a baby,” he wailed, and visions of forbidden teenage love, Camaros, and Old Milwaukee-fueled tears suddenly made perfect sense. I guess the TRL haircuts can be forgiven, because this talented young band is one of the best to grace modern rock radio.

–Jonah Flicker

Photos by Timothy Norris.

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