With much of the world still on lockdown and gigs still being cancelled left, right and centre, we thought we’d look back on some of our writer’s favourite concerts, keeping your taste for live music alive. First up is Royal Blood at Sheffield’s The Leadmill in 2014, attended by Vinyl Chapters writer Matt Wand.
It’s cold and windy in the centre of Sheffield tonight. The Streets are rife with ghouls and ghosts but mingled in between the crowds of revellers and roughnecks, a select chosen few are heading to the Leadmill to Experience Royal Blood. With an intermate capacity of 900, the Leadmill swells with anticipation for the main act of the evening. There is an atmosphere that what we are about to witness is a once in a gigging lifetime event and that this legendary stage will never see the like of this up and coming band again.
As it is Friday 31st October, the room is decorated for Halloween and the inevitable club night that will follow. But for now, with mobile phone backlights twinkling like stars, the house lights drop and the crowd in attendance are ready to greet Mike Kerr (bass and vocals) and Ben Thatcher (drums) to the stage. That’s right, Royal Blood are a duo, a two-piece band comprising of the rhythm section staple of bass and drums. What’s this? The Imperial March, playing over the PA? It is a special occasion after all. Four large men wade through the crowd carrying a coffin on their shoulders. Placing it upright on the stage, the door swings open and in full skeleton costume, face paint and all, Mike emerges from within to survey the cheering crowd.
The lights dim again and the slow rumble of bass drones through the speakers. With a nod to his drummer and friend, Mike and Ben launch into Hole, a heavy driven B side that has been the setlist opener all year. The band play through the song with passion and shake off any nerves they may have. It takes a few tracks for the band to acknowledge the crowd, with them sarcastically mocking those in attendance that were not in fancy dress as requested… your writer being one of them.
The band’s debut album only being 2 months old and lasting 30 minutes, the masters of the 3-minute garage rock track will have to pull out all the stops to fill their time as a headline act and fill their time they did. They blister through their set with intent and purpose and the crowd react with appreciation and awe as the duo release a sonic boom that could be easily mistaken for a five-piece outfit. The writer could bore the reader with a detailed explanation of how the sound I’m witnessing live is created, but I won’t. What I will say is Mr Kerr commands his trio of amps with military precision and an impressive pedalboard that acts as a conductor of sorts, controlling the dynamics of at least three distinctive tones from a single bass guitar.
Royal blood gallop towards the closing with the crunching riff of Ten Tonne Skeleton and the dirty groove of Loose Change, in which the crowd sing along to the guitar lines. A crowd I may add that, in a world of social media, seem to not want to let themselves go in their present company. Something I’ve not witnessed before. By inter splicing B sides with the album tracks and popping the crowd with the more familiar singles, the Royal Blood boys reach a climax with the roaring anthem, Out of the Black and as they reach the crescendo the sea of bodies finally come alive, unable to hold it back anymore.
Tonight, Royal Blood demonstrated that they have the makings of a truly amazing rock band, their live infancy did show in places, but their confidence grew throughout the night and will emphatically grow stronger through this, their first headline tour and all the subsequent gigs and tours ahead.