Royal Blood Reign Supreme In Santa Ana (Flashback: 2015)


REVIEW: Royal Blood at The Observatory photo: James Christopher

Flashback 2015: Royal Blood Concert Review

While playing to a sold-out crowd at the Observatory on Thursday, Mike Kerr of Brighton hard rock duo Royal Blood urged the crowd to be fully present. “We’re gonna play another song, but I only want to play it for people that don’t have a fucking phone in the air,” he said before launching into the monstrous “Loose Change,” off of their self-titled debut. This desire to take in the moment makes sense for Royal Blood, who have experienced a breakneck rise to fame. They released their first demos a mere two years ago, and have been riding a wave of buzz generated by high-profile fans like Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, and hard-rock godfather Jimmy Page, ever since.

Playing one badass, heavy-hitter after another, like the swaggering “Better Strangers,” and the slinky “You Can Be So Cruel,” one finds it hard to believe that the colossal sound coming from the stage is made by just two people. Kerr, who handles vocals and bass guitar, strutted around the stage like an old pro, filling, then annihilating, any hole left by the lack of a lead guitar player. Drummer Ben Thatcher rounds out the sound with mammoth fills and hip-hop-influenced rhythms on a drum set that he doesn’t just play, but hurls himself at.

The chugging riffs on “Little Monster” and “Come On Over” are rooted in hard rock and even metal, but Kerr’s bass work balanced the heaviness with plenty of melody, while his slick vocals, alternating between hypnotic and drop-dead sexy, give the songs a moody slink. The swaggering “Figure It Out,” slide-bass inflected “One Trick Pony,” and the brash “Blood Hands,” were high points of an altogether phenomenal set, with Kerr joining Thatcher up on the drum riser for a jam-out, so in-sync that they seemed to be thinking with one brain.

The tinnitus-inducing “Out Of The Black” closed the show, pushing an already electrified crowd into near hysteria. With a series of false endings that included Thatcher crowd-surfing, a hair-raising rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”, and Thatcher ultimately kicking over his chair and savagely finishing the song while standing up, it was a fittingly epic conclusion for such a knockout show.

With a lot of buzz-bands, the hype can overshadow the actual talent of the group. This is definitely not the case with Kerr and Thatcher. Royal Blood is good, and they know it. With just two instruments, they create enough power to fill an arena, and if this show is any indication, they’ll probably be filling them very soon.

The show was opened by WAKRAT and Bass Drum Of Death.