I've been itching to see Kings of Leon live since stumbling across them just over two years ago. Until recently, however, the boys have spent most of their time in the U.K., where audiences were quicker to embrace a throwback/progressive Southern rock outfit than American audiences have been.
I had no interest in seeing them as the opening act for U2, but they've been headlining their own tour in the U.S. this summer. And last night they stopped at The Tabernacle in downtown Atllanta.
The venue: The Tabernacle is an old Baptist tabernacle that was briefly a House of Blues during the Atlanta Olympics and is now a medium-sized live music venue. A fitting place for the Kings to play, seeing how they are the sons/nephew of a Pentecostal preacher. I've been disappointed in the sound quality there in the past, especially when a "popular" band is playing. I think management sometimes simply turns down the volume to avoid hassles from parents after all-ages shows for "popular" acts. Thankfully, the sound for the Kings show was great, filling the room with rich guitar tones and creating nice pressure waves from the bass.
The performance: What struck me most about the Kings set is how tight they were live, at least on the songs that are part of their regular set. Listening to their records, the band comes across as a kind of loose, free-wheeling bunch (I won't say "jam band", but the vibe is kind of like an Allman Brothers record). But their set was clean and powerful. At times the boys played with little emotion or energy, but at other times they cut loose and were really feeling the music. Perhaps that's a reflection of their Pentecostal roots.
Near the end of the set, the boys appeared to venture off the set list, and it showed with a little more sloppy play (not that there's anything wrong with that).
The set: The Kings opened with Molly's Chambers, one of their original tunes that appears both on the Holy Roller Novocaine EP and Young and Young Manhood LP. The driving guitars and bass make for a great show-opener. They then drifted quickly into a long run of cuts from Aha Shake Heartbreak, including the hit The Bucket, which they played probably seven or eight songs in.