Kings of Leon, Panic! at the Disco Discovery Green April 2, 2011
About halfway through Saturday's Kings Of Leon show at Discovery Green, part of the corporate Big Dance Concert Series in conjunction with the Final Four in Houston this weekend, we met up with a music industry friend and got to talking about the Kings and what they mean now to the music world as a sea of thousands crowded around us.
"They are truly one of the only young rock bands that can tour and make a profit," he said, remarking on the glut of older rock artists who each summer can still pack big venues like the shed in the Woodlands and Toyota Center a few blocks from Disco Green, but still remain notably older than the target KOL audience, and the band themselves. KOL is a safe bet.
The notion that KOL is the only rock band able to make a dent with mainstream rock audiences, on their own without relying on being on a major package tour, makes it all that harder to get a bead on them live.
To judge them against everyone else on modern rock radio is lazy, because three years ago they became the biggest rock band in the country, which counts for something even if you jumped off their bandwagon around the time "Sex On Fire" hit big and turned lead singer Caleb Followill and the rest of the family band into "aww-shucks" sex symbols.
KOL almost seemed too big to play a corporate event like the Big Dance, let alone for free. Blame the boys' love of college basketball, or just the breaks of being a nationally-palatable rock band.
Opening with last year's "Radioactive" from Come Around Sundown, the band hit all the sweet spots with the packed lawn, filled mostly with younger fans throwing cans of Coke Zero and souvenirs at each other, tokens of love from the beloved sponsors.
KOL remain a great, slow-burning live band for all intents and purposes. They do best when they play in between the shadows of their pop construction, like on 2008's album track "Notion". This machine has been in a constant, improving flux since they first appeared sporting white-trash 'staches and Stillwater hair in 2003 while touring with the Strokes and making us all tilt our heads in wonder.
To quote our friend again, "Kings Of Leon doesn't suck, it's their fans that suck," he cracked as we saw a guy walk by us, shirtless shaved body, wrap-around shades, hulking, muttering "Your sex is on fire." More of a threat than a compliment.
The band's music improved over the past decade, got catchier, perhaps even more ageless, as the hipsters from Youth And Young Manhood fell away in disgust. Same old story, with different players.
It was a tight setlist that the KOL turned in too, with just a pinch of the older stuff, mixed with the growing pains work from 2007's Because Of The Times, and all the right singles from the divisive Only By The Night, which turned them into stadium rats, and lead even Nickelback to cover them live. There are worse bands to be stuck with for the next 30 years we thought as the band launched into the aching spirals of "No Money" from Sundown, with it's Exile On Main St. lyrics and circular rhythms.
End all this pissing around Cut me loose of this fucking town I ain't coming back I got my ticket on to the next one
Personal Bias: This writer may be one of the few rock writers in the country who gave KOL's Come Around Sundown a decent year-ending showing in 2010.
The Crowd: We heard that at one point that Discovery Green was possibly accommodating 25,000 people. That was families, singles mingling, drunken packs of shirtless boys, really pretty gals sipping beers, and some Houston cops wielding very big riot batons just in case.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Someone is touching me," seemed to be a prevailing comment. Some people are not made for free outdoor festivals.
Random Notebook Dump: How often do the guys who shave their arms, chests, and legs have to shave their arms, chests, and legs? Does it get easier after a while and it grows back slower, or is it like a every-two-days thing?
Taper Jean Girl
Back Down South
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Sex on Fire