Royal Blood, Meg Myers Warehouse Live Studio September 23, 2014
Playing Lollapalooza and SXSW is one thing. But to be a true buzz band, you've got to generate the kind of heat that can draw a big crowd to a club on a Tuesday night in flyover country. By that standard, at least, Royal Blood has arrived.
The U.K. garage duo is less than a month removed from the release of their first full-length, but appreciation for their hard-edged guitar punch is spreading fast. Last night, the Warehouse Live Studio filled up with fans eager to find out if these guys really can be the rock and roll saviors they've already been branded as by the NME set.
Before Houston could get its first look at the pair, however, we were treated to another intriguing, rising talent. A Los Angeleno by way of Tennessee, Meg Myers is blessed with the sort of rich and elastic voice that simply begs to be applied to rock and roll. Flitting between a breathy whisper and an anguished shout, the singer occupies a sonic territory somewhere between Fiona and Alanis, and she's got stage moves enticing enough to keep a Tuesday night crowd enthralled.
Myers was utterly convincing when she picked up her bass guitar on a few numbers, but when she left the low end to her cellist(!) and freed up her hands, she was able to become a real front woman, belting out quick and powerful tunes like "Adelaide" and "Go." The response she received was enthusiastic. She's got the look, and she's certainly got the talent: This gal could be one high-profile commercial spot away from real stardom.
Royal Blood? Well, they're already there -- particularly in their home country, where their brand-new, self-titled debut hit No. 1 and has already gone gold. Though sometimes tagged as a White Stripes clone -- kinda unavoidable for a guitar-drums garage act in 2014 -- even a cursory listen effortlessly dissolves that comparison. Whereas Jack White was all about bluesy, lo-fi, roots-rock eccentricity, Royal Blood has bypassed the Son House worship in favor of Tony Iommi and his '90s disciples, Kim Thayil and Tom Morello. They're possibly the crunchiest buzz band to emerge since Sleigh Bells.
In short, Royal Blood rocks a damn sight harder than their recent garage forebears, and on Tuesday, their set made for the heaviest hipster hoedown Warehouse Live may have yet seen. Drummer Ben Thatcher, the anti-Meg White, was in large part responsible for the heavy metal thunder, laying down sledgehammer beats with a polished and engaging stage style. He was particularly impressive on the single "Figure It Out," a song big enough that it seems an impossible eruption from just two guys.
Bassist Mike Kerr banged out dumbed-down Jimmy Page riffs in the best possible way, setting skinny young ladies in motion from the front of the room to the back. His expressive voice, a far cry from the wail and whine of so many of his garage contemporaries, came with the authority of unabashed rock and roll sex appeal, ringing out strong and clear on cuts like "Ten Tonne Skeleton."
Though less than two years old, Royal Blood's rough edges have already been polished to an appealing gleam by their run on the U.K. festival circuit this summer. And their sound was real enough on Tuesday to have some staying power.
"We look at this as a first date," Kerr told Houston, "and I have to say, you're looking pretty fucking sexy."
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By the time his man Thatcher returned from a short crowd-surfing sojourn to man the skins for the ripping "Out of the Black," the Warehouse crowd was completely sold. As fans pogoed and pumped their fists, throwing the occasional and appropriate devil horns, it was obvious that most of them will be waiting anxiously by their phones today, checking their text messages and hoping hard for that second date.
Personal Bias: We crave a different kind of buzz.
The Crowd: The least annoying sort of scruffy young hipsters.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Who's your stylist?"
Random Notebook Dump: Appreciation for Meg Myers' voice was compounded when smokers shuffled outside only to be greeted by the sound of some poor woman butchering "Sweater Weather" across the street at Mojeaux's.
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