Tuesday, November 11, 2008

'Dance All Night': Kings of Leon in D.C., 11.10.08

If it's possible to use the term "groovy" without dredging up the doofus hippie connotations, then that's exactly how I'd describe Monday night's Kings of Leon concert at Constitution Hall in D.C. These boys from Tennessee certainly know how to lock into a groove and keep the intensity up for a show.

It was nearly five months since I'd last seen the quartet, when they opened for Pearl Jam in Virginia Beach. I'd never heard a KOL song prior to that night, but they won me over and I've been digging into their catalog ever since.

They played basically every song I could have hoped for Monday night over the course of an excellent 1 hour 40 minute set. Though I wasn't taking notes, as best I can figure post-show they took seven songs each from their three most recent albums, opening with back-to-back whammies "Closer" and "Crawl" from this year's release, "Only By the Night." Other standouts included "Fans" (my personal fave KOL track), the sprawling "Knocked Up," and show-closer "Black Thumbnail." I also particularly liked a strong five-song stretch amidst the main set that started with the chust-thumping "Four Kicks" then moved on into "The Bucket," "McFearless," "Use Somebody," and "On Call." It was impressed upon me how much I like the way their songs always keep moving, adding layers upon layers without losing the core riff where they started; if nothing else, the Kings of Leon are rarely boring.

One of the most surprising aspects of the night when compared to my first KOL experience was how powerful the band's stage presence is when they unleash their full headlining power, which has so enraptured the UK but failed to catch on Stateside. They gave off a much more confident vibe topping the bill, and their rather expansive light show was just right—always complementary of the music, never overwhelming it. Playing to a raucous capacity crowd, the only slightly off moment came near the end of the main set with the ballad "Cold Desert"; as the final track on the new album it works OK, but at five minutes plus, it dragged in concert. The Kings redeemed themselves right away, though, closing the set with "Slow Night, So Long," a surefire favorite. Overall, they moved effortlessly from one crowd-pleaser to another, keeping the energy level at a high level all night. It wasn't the best show I've ever seen or anything, but it sure was fun.

One of the reasons I went in the first place was for the strong three-band bill. Unfortunately, due to personal scheduling issues I missed all but a couple songs of The Whigs' half-hour opening set (no D.C. show should EVER start at 7 p.m.—it's next to impossible to get to the venue on time!). What I heard was great, which made it all the more disappointing that I missed everything from the band that produced one of my favorite albums of the year. Hopefully they'll come back soon and hit a place like the Black Cat.

In the middle was We Are Scientists, who have to be one of the best geek-rock bands since Weezer. Their breezy 40-minute show was also great fun, and they did well to hold the crowd's attention in a room that's probably too big for them. Their new record from this year is another that's well worth your time.

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