Kings of Leon : New York Irving Plaza are hooting and hollering for more...

The room is less than half-full when the four hillbilly hotties in Kings Of Leon take the stage as opening act for Moldy Peaches‘ Adam Green and headliner Ben Kweller. This is not the crowd of music business insiders who crammed into the smaller Mercury Lounge in March to see what all this talk of Lynyrd Strokes was about. This is a room full of Ben Kweller fans and they’re ready to ho-hum their way through the Kings ten-song set. The fools! It doesn’t take long for the Followill boys to perform a religious conversion appropriate for these sons-of-a-preacher-man. No one in the crowd seems acquainted with the dirty Southern boogie tunes from the Kings‘ perfect five-song EP, but no matter: By the time the band churns out its foot-stomping version of ‘Spiral Staircase’ three songs in, the Kweller fans are hooting and hollering for more.

The Kings play all five EP songs, but it’s the new material – to be released on their album this summer — that proves why there’s more to these boys than just crotch-hugging jeans and ratty t-shirts. ‘Tranny’, which they save for their penultimate number, builds from its tender beginning to full arena-rock splendor, with lead guitarist Matthew picking out a scorching solo while Caleb scrunched up his face and let out a scraping howl that sounds like Bob Dylan’s smoke-saturated rasp did in the ’70s. And Jared, who makes some of the goofiest bass-player faces ever, shows off fierce chops considering he only picked up the instrument eight months ago. By the time they finish with ‘Happy Alone’, the Kings have made a few hundred pairs of pants very, very wet in the crotch – and those are New Yorkers’ – pants, so you know they weren’t cheap.

Jenny Eliscu