Back in June 2013, Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders wore a Royal Blood T shirt during their Glastonbury headline set to a worldwide audience of arguably of millions. Earlier this year, the Sheffielders came good on their support and enlisted the Brighton duo to open up for them at London’s Finsbury Park. And today, as Arctic Monkeys round off their ‘AM’ gig run with a final headline show at Leeds Festival, Royal Blood played the kind of set that hinted that they could be the next big British band to give Alex Turner and co a fight for the crown.
To say that Royal Blood’s 2.15pm set on the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage (the second largest on the site) was packed wouldn’t be the half of it. In the blaring sun on a Sunday afternoon, when most punters are either too hungover to move from their tents, getting lunch or contemplating packing up for the imminent drive home, Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher drew easily the biggest non-Main Stage crowd of the three days. Not only were there swarms of fans left watching screens outside the tent, there were people outside the tent that were still dancing their hearts out and forming tiny mosh pits.
Despite the band’s self-titled debut not hitting shelves until Monday, meaning that people won’t have even heard half the record, the response throughout was huge. At the end, as Thatcher descended into the crowd to gee them up for the final freak out of ‘Out of the Black’, the stage crew pulled the sound due to time constraints. Considering that they were probably going to overrun by about 90 seconds, it’s about the stupidest decision they could have made. With the crowd erupting in a sea of jeers as Kerr informed them they’d been cut off, it nearly ruined what should have been Royal Blood’s final triumphant finale. More than any festival set of the year, their gigs this weekend feel like real ‘I was there’ moments, etched into the books ready for when the pair become massive.
Already, you sense, this is a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’. And considering the lack of exciting, British rock bands climbing into the next league (the majority of festival line ups this year have been rehashing the same combination of bill toppers – Biffy, Arctics, Kasabian et al – as last summer), the fact that there’s a band so in their infancy that seem like a viable prospect to join them in a few years can only be a good thing.
With the weight of hype around them reaching unenviable levels, you could forgive Thatcher and Kerr for not living up to expectation. But, judging from today, they seem absolutely at ease in front of thousands. They’re a band that naturally fill big spaces, that look and sound at home in front of screaming packed tents and that have already had experience of playing some of the biggest stages in the country. A two-piece Queens of the Stone Age; a tough, British Black Keys; The White Stripes with added commercial polish – whichever way you want to see them, Royal Blood’s continued ascent seems about as sure a bet as they come.