Say what you will about Royal Blood’s bluesy hard rock assault but it was what earned them the Best British Group Award at the 2015 Brit Awards. The dynamic duo of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher put all their muscle into their first show in Portland on Memorial Day at the sold-out Wonder Ballroom May 25.
Producing a fierce, all-for-one rock and roll sound that was praised last year by Jimmy Page, who also presented them their Brit Award, said of the band after having seen them last year, “They were fantastic. Absolutely riveting, they’re such fine musicians. Their album has taken the genre up a serious few notches. It’s so refreshing to hear, because they play with the spirit of the things that have preceded them.”
And the Wonder Ballroom was ecstatic knowing Royal Blood came to rock. From the effects-driven, hijacked bass of frontman Kerr to Thatcher’s arsenal of drums providing the pounding drive, the band shook the rafters with the sound that mints their signature hard rock crunch and delivered on all fronts.
Just a couple days after visiting the 2015 Sasqautch Music Festival, where you can find many a smartphone videos online, the duo blasted through their debut album in its entirety. The back of the stage was draped in a replica of the cover of their self-title debut. A pair of peering eyes gazed at the packed venue as Royal Blood kicked of their set with “Come On Over” and the front of the stage erupted.
Kerr stood center stage as he stroked his bass through “You Can Be So Cruel”, and displayed the one handed flash of descending progression through “Figure It Out” while Thatcher’s high-hat kept rhythm. The band’s flashing colored light show dizzily matched Kerr’s theatrics and the thunderous drumming of Thatcher, who was patriotically attired in a sleeveless American flag t-shirt.
From the seductive, lustful desires of ”Little Monster” and the dirty deeds of “Blood Hands” the stage was awash in strobing red lights that accentuated the intoxicating atmosphere of the band’s sledgehammer rock. A wave of jumping, fist pumping fans on the floor accompanied Kerr’s invitation to let loose into between his frequent fueling swigs of Patrón.
But it was “Ten Tonne Skeleton” that ignited the crowd already raucous appreciation of the band, prompting one female fan to jump on stage. Dancing next to Kerr, she whipped her long black hair back and forth in true heading banging allegiance. Even Kerr appeared startled by the fan’s determination to be part of the show and pointed the young lady off stage just before security quickly escorted her away. Given the excitement of the fans at the front of the stage, it was more of a surprise it didn’t happen sooner. But cooler heads prevailed and the frontline were content to power-pump from the floor.
The evening closed with the lead track from their debut, the jarring, time signature changing intro of “Out Of The Black.” The duo pulled out all the stops, including an instrumental break where Kerr hailed Thatcher and waved the drummer out from behind his kit to acknowledge the cheering crowd. After enjoying of applause well deserved, he acknowledged the crowd and returned to his drums for a furious finish of the song.
Royal Blood certainly incorporate a number of musical influences but are a force to be reckoned with, pumping out more volume than a distorted bass and drums almost have a right to, which they boldly delivered. The power duo’s writing takes and makes the best of what they do, and forges a strapping sledgehammer of sound.
You can be sure the next time Royal Blood comes to town, the venue will be larger and the show will sell out faster. For those Portlanders who didn’t make the trek to Sasquatch and missed Royal Blood’s debut at the Wonder, don’t miss this band next time around.