"One of the first concerts we ever played was actually at a rodeo. It was a really small rodeo in Alabama I think. So it's an honor to be able to play here, thank you," said Caleb Followill, lead singer of Kings of Leon, last night before launching into 2013 Mechanical Bull cut "Supersoaker." The 61,436 fans in the house cheered on in approval of the anecdote from the band's early days, heartily welcoming them to the largest rodeo in the world.
By now, the family band's roots are well-worn southern rock folklore: brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared Followill (sons of a pentecostal preacher) and their cousin Matthew rose to prominence with rowdy songs about dangerous women, drugs, and ruckus. Early career comparisons to The Strokes transformed into U2 counterparts as their sound evolved toward arena rock, hitting their commercial peak with 2008's Only by the Night. 16 years, seven studio albums, and countless brotherly brawls later, the Kings treated an enthusiastic RodeoHouston audience to a career-so-far spanning performance.
The Kings looked right at home as they opened their set with 2008's "Crawl" on the beautiful rotating star stage plastered in patriotic visuals of stars and stripes. Drummer Nathan blew giant bubbles of bubblegum as he barreled through the song. Bassist Jared held his own, colorfully clad in a pink blazer. As the camera zoomed in on Matthew for the first of several glorious guitar solos, the red stripes of the American flag imagery matched the red of his guitar.
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Now fully warmed up, Caleb's voice delivered a gritty, soulful stank on "Find Me," a cut from their most recent studio effort WALLS with a hollering chorus that pierced through NRG Stadium. He clutched his heart during "Revelry" as he sang "See the time we spent it was precious to me / All the while I was dreaming of revelry," finessing the song with a tender falsetto. Caleb served up a haunting vocal performance of "Closer," another well received track from Only by the Night, with just as much torment as he did on the record.
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Two more cuts from that mammoth, decade old album of theirs drew the biggest crowd reactions of the night. With its pulsing guitars, eyebrow raising lyrics, and howling chorus, "Sex on Fire" has always felt like a high speed chase. Last night's performance was no different. The Kings kicked into high gear with an urgency that nudged the tempo five clicks faster than the album and brought many fans to their feet. Mid-song, the band incited a massive singalong to the fans' delight. The moment mimicked a religious revival as the camera showed closeups of elated fans hooting and hollering "You! / Your sex is on fire."
Caleb's smile glinted with both joy and relief as he and the Kings ran through a victory lap performance of their most recognizable radio staple "Use Somebody." Though the song may have fit better as a set closer rather than the penultimate number, it incited one last singalong with its sweeping chorus seemingly designed for cavernous stadiums. After rounding out the night with 2016's "Waste a Moment," the brothers — and cousin — drove off in the back of a pickup truck, kings of the rodeo and a long way from Alabama.
Sex on Fire
Back Down South
Waste a Moment