It’s clear from how 2014 has unfolded that the Rock Gods have been smiling down benevolently on Royal Blood. Nominated for a Mercury, with a critically acclaimed Number One album that was also the fastest-selling British rock debut in three years, they were the talk of the festival season so expectations are stratospheric tonight. And the East Sussex duo don’t disappoint, bringing the noise and raising the roof with a set that’s brief but brutal.
To a sea of faces on the floor and bodies almost hanging over the balcony, they yank us by the ear through an airing of their whole album with a couple of B-sides thrown in for good measure - such as 'You Want Me', which sees frontman Mike Kerr channel his inner Brian Molko. 'Better Strangers' has the pair show off their dirty, bluesy rock roots, whilst shrill squeals of distortion peal out on 'Careless'. Much like their similarly-named predecessors Blood Red Shoes - another racket-heavy Brighton two-piece - Royal Blood sound way bigger than they are, thanks in part to a bass that masquerades as a full-bodied axe, and the absence of any bells and whistles allowing the songs to say it all, giving the show a no-nonsense, stripped-down feel.
The crowd is lapping it all up yet there's a sense of anticipation being built as the night heads towards the second half, with the loudest saved for last. The chugging, monster riff of 'Ten Tonne Skeleton' followed by the serrated, meaty guitar work of 'Loose Change', hacking away like a rusty butcher's knife, acts as an effective one-two punch. But it's 'Out Of The Black' that proves the real knockout; the rat-a-tat stop/start drum intro provided by sticksman Ben Thatcher cultivates a menacing, deliberate atmosphere like an 'Absolution'-era Muse track, as the carefully rumbling verses give way to a shrieking chorus, with Kerr screaming: 'I got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it / But a trigger for a heart beating blood from an empty pocket'. It serves as the apocalyptic climax to a solid night and goes to show you don't always need an encore to end on a big bang.
Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett
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