Royal Blood’s Powerful, Minimalist Technique is Redefining Rock: Review and Photos From D.C.’s 9:30 Club

Photos and Review by Max Stewart

Royal Blood are completely rewriting the rules of being a band in 2017. Mike Kerr (Bass, Vocals) and Ben Thatcher (Drums) – two high school friends from England –  have created a hard-hitting, melodic sound that is the perfect Rock reaction to the DJ era. Royal Blood have the simplicity, the swagger, the spirited live acumen, and most importantly, the songs that can, as Jimmy Page puts it, “take Rock into a new realm”. In a time where Rock bands climbing the charts are few and far between, Royal Blood have tapped into something truly special.

First of all, this band’s sound is EPIC. It is almost unfathomable to think it is merely two guys producing the monstrosity of their studio recordings. But when Kerr and Thatcher powered through an hour-long set at D.C.’s 9:30 Club (they kept it quick; quality not quantity), it was clear the two have a chemistry that manifests itself into a sonic explosion on stage. The 60 minute set turned out to be ideal, since the crowd didn’t stop moving all night; there was also an active (but friendly) mosh pit near the middle of the floor. Royal Blood are a well-oiled Rock machine, they keep it tight and don’t have time for filler.

Moreover, Royal Blood’s original songs brought an elevated, thrashing excitement to their live performance, an area where many hyped new bands miss the mark. “Out of the Black”, “Ten Tonne Skeleton”, “Little Monster” are all through and through Hard Rock songs, but appealed to the middle-aged Doors fans in the audience. Royal Blood’s sound is like if Queens of the Stone Age and the White Stripes had a kid that played guitar for a Led Zeppelin cover band, but they happened to be performing Muse’s 2001 album, Origin of Symmetry, in its entirety one night (you follow all that?).

To top it all off, both Kerr and Thatcher are superb musicians who add a full dose of cleverness and individuality to every drum fill or bass riff. I actually caught Royal Blood when they were touring their last album at the 9:30 Club with my drummer friend Owen Rogers, and we agreed that none of the allure faded when seeing them in the same venue for a second time (Rogers remarked that the band is “endlessly creative”). Kerr’s bass technique is revolutionary, the tones he creates from the instrument (with the help of some effects pedals and some ingenuity) mimic the sound of two guitarists AND a bassist. No shit. It is a sight to see.  

The band leveled the audience with four songs from their sophomore release How Did We Get So Dark?, including opener “Where Are You Now?” and “Hook Line & Sinker”, which both had the catchiness and distinction of their debut 2014 self-titled release. In fact, their new album was released last week, and I can’t think of any better way to spend your lunch money… (check out “How Did We Get So Dark?” and “She’s Creeping”). Royal Blood’s simple lighting setup felt more Daft Punk than Metallica (one of many reasons fans from the Electronic scene will eat up their live show). Some of their first album staples, “Figure It Out” and “Come On Over”, were marked with Kerr’s signature rifftastic fury. During “Blood Hands”, Thatcher (who was perched up on a tall drum riser and fully visible) played the song with a beer bottle propped on one of his cymbals… these dudes are no doubt enjoying the party and momentum associated with their skyrocketing success. A manic extended version of “Out of the Black” capped off the night, where Kerr proved to be a dynamic frontman by hopping on the drum riser and adding an extra hand on the cymbals.

Royal Blood supported Foo Fighters in 2015, will be opening for Queens of the Stone Age during their Fall tour this year, and are doing some dates with Guns ‘N’ Roses in the Fall. Clearly Rock royalty have taken notice that their are some new blokes looking for a seat at the table.  

If you claim to be a Rock fan, read these next words very carefully: Go See Royal Blood Live. Hell, if you claim to appreciate good music, you should check ‘em out. I pretty much never outright endorse a band, but these guys deserve it and are 100% worth every penny for a ticket. After seeing them for a second time at the 9:30 Club, I tend to agree with Jimmy Page that Royal Blood has ripped apart the manual for three-chord Rock and are ‘taking the genre up a few serious notches’.

Royal Blood – 9:30 Club – Washington, D.C. – 6.6.17

Where Are You Now?, Lights Out, Come On Over, I Only Lie When I Love You, Little Monster, Hook Line & Sinker, Blood Hands, Figure It Out, Better Strangers, Loose Change, Ten Tonne Skeleton, Out of the Black

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