As Royal Blood steamrollered their way through Liverpool with their thunderous rock, Getintothis’ Chris Hughes witnessed the next step on their huge rise.
To say Royal Blood’s rise has been meteoric would be an understatement.
In what has to be considered as one of the biggest stories in music this year, the Brighton-born duo were shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2014 award, followed by a slot as Duke Street garage rockers as recently as May’s Sound City Festival. In August they became British album chart toppers and managed to score the fastest selling British rock debut album for three years.
If that wasn’t enough, they were also recently nominated for the Mercury Prize.
All this comes after the two formed only last year- and unbelievably played their first gig just two days after frontman Mike Kerr came back from a working holiday in Australia. Despite obvious comparisons to other popular two pieces The White Stripes, The Black Keys and Death From Above 1979, the duo have always maintained their desire to sound like bigger bands, citing Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age as big influences.
Their return to Liverpool, here at the main stage in the O2 Academy, was fully sold out within about twenty seconds of tickets going on sale- an indication of their huge rise in popularity. And upon arriving at the venue, it’s clear than none of those tickets have gone to waste- the place is packed out to capacity.
Turbowolf enter amidst an atmosphere of tense anticipation. Having caught their riotous set at this summer’s BST Festival, we knew the kind of frantic, head-banging boogie to expect- not everyone in the crowd did. It’s no easy task to open before an act of the headliners magnitude, but Turbowolf absolutely tear the place down with their energetic and relentless onslaught of punk-filthy guitar, animalistic vocals, space-age synth and rocket-paced riffs.
The whole set is several bars above what most of this crowd could have expected, and after live favourite tracks Ancient Snake and A Rose For The Crows there are waves of fists in the air. This is modern rock at its most unchained, and the whole experience is pure fun. Leaving the stage a few degrees warmer than when they came on, Turbowolf have earned themselves more than just a few new fans tonight. With a new album due in 2015, we’re definitely going to keep an eye on these guys.
When Royal Blood take to the stage, the whole crowd bursts into rapturous applause and the sweltering atmosphere reaches boiling point. Outlines silhouetted by a dusky red light behind the dark stage, Kerr’s bass screeches to life in a burst of feedback while drummer Ben Thatcher counts in their opener, the huge and heavy Hole.
There’s a sleazy sexiness to the track, reminiscent of desert rock legends Kyuss. Beer cups and arms immediately fly into the air as a spell of bass-fuzz crunches through the venue, bewitching everything in its path.
At the end of the number, Kerr introduces himself and ‘the rest of the band’ before the crowd go wild as the frenetic first notes of debut B-side Come On Over fill the venue. The band put their foot to the accelerator through a blistering verse, before the audience bellow along to the catchy and head-swinging chorus. Following on from You Can Be So Cruel comes a deafening outro straight from one of Muse’s early 2000s shows. It’s obvious that this is a band who, while having massive amounts of fun on stage, take their live show very seriously.
Every one of Kerr’s thundering bass notes and Thatcher’s tight beats sound as brutally bold as they do on their LP. It’s difficult to believe that it’s a two piece we’re listening to at times, and we keep thinking there’s an overdub or off-stage guitarist. But Kerr really is a master of his instrument, utilising all manner of inventive techniques to push what a bass guitar can do. Playing one of his signature short-scale Gretsches with two bass strings and two guitar strings, the array of noise is nothing short of incredible.
Next up is the Prince-esque disco-groove of Figure It Out, which despite its glittery roots still manages to pack a heavy punch with a riff that ducks, dives and weaves its way to a hard-hitting crescendo. We have to mention Muse again here, because it sounds exactly like a track Matt Bellamy wishes he’d written for their latest album (and we can actually picture him getting all huffy when he realises he was beaten to it).
After the slower and more subdued sounds of Better Strangers, Kerr gives a shout out to Liverpool saying that his granny is from here. An easy claim to make, and one that many would dismiss as something said at every gig, until the stage lights shine onto an old lady in the VIP box. Back to the task at hand, the duo erupt into the second single from their album Little Monster. The mosh pit takes up nearly a third of the floor, long-haired rockers and indie-mods with bowl cut fringes alike getting churned all around in a mix of beer and sweat.
Tirelessly powering through most of the tracks from their album, Ten Tonne Skeleton has the whole room bouncing up and down to its electric elephant-stomp. Where Royal Blood differ fundamentally from previous attempts at British rock revival is their undeniable talent to write well structured, radio-friendly songs with a kick.
Finishing up with a roaring rendition of Out of the Black, It’s obvious that there isn’t going to be another chance to see Royal Blood at a venue this small again. There’s no encore, no displays of a self-righteous rock ego- the duo just belt out their music, take a moment to salute their fans who Kerr thanks for being their best yet, and exit the stage to cries for one more song from a euphoric crowd craving more. It takes some time for the whole experience to sink in- the lads have more than lived up to their hype.
We catch up with Turbowolf singer Chris Georgadis after the show, who is positively beaming. Asked how he felt the gig went, he says ‘It’s our first time up in Liverpool, and we’ve loved every minute of it. We’ll definitely be back soon!’
The Royal Blood juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, and with shows like this tonight- it’s safe to say the future of British rock is in very safe hands.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Sakura.