Kings of Leon : London Brixton Academy : Dec 11

A gross, unholy mess, then, mired in muggy magic.

Unless you’ve been hiding in a six foot by ten foot hole under a remote Iraqi farmhouse for the

past seven months, you’ll have heard the talk. Shh! They’re not a real band at all! Just the evil

indie boyband fantasy of the dark-hearted svengali behind ’80s skiffle one-hit-wonders The

Bluebells. They’re the country-punk Busted, it’s true! And

they’re not even related, or American; they were actually hired from the Weirds With Beards model

agency in Nuneaton and forced to watch Dukes Of Hazzard fifteen times a day until

they got the voices. And they all wear wigs and Jared’s mum is really Sue

Lawley and those are exactly the same jackets used in Almost

Famous. It’s all such a clever project.

True, from the gaggles of Kate Moss’s mates swigging champers from the bottle,

the spinning Queens Of Noizes making the mosher with two backs and the fact that you can sing

The Bluebells’ ‘Young At Heart’ to the tune of ‘Joe’s

Head’, there’s plenty of question marks hanging over the authenticity of Kings Of Leon’s Southern yokel

schtick tonight. But one thing reduces all the Faking It whispers to mere tittle-tattle, poppycock

and balderdash. There’s simply NO WAY that the biggest London show to date by a

cynical major label puppet act with fifty dollar notes spurting out of their arses would be so

downright shonky.

Oh no, this stage show was undeniably conceived, produced and hand-built in an

Alabama chicken shack and rowed to England on a log raft by

Huckleberry Finn. The Kings enter to a crackly Scott Walker tape before a backdrop

of lights last seen behind Shirley

Bassey during her 1976 residency at Southport Butlins. The sound

engineer has fed the Academy’s PA through a muddy ditch outside and whoever wired up the overhead

screens has connected them to the in-house CCTV by mistake, leaving us with an out-of-focus black

and white feed of the back of Caleb’s head throughout. As a blatant time-filler,

‘Molly’s Chambers’ gets played three times in a row – once as a sleazy red light

lounge-hooker drawl, once as a PCP-crazed hoedown, once dead straight – and the ‘sparkling

Christmas snow-scene’ they ordered for a finale looks like someone in the rafters has just shaken

a dusty blanket. Either the shadowy money men want to give us as realistic a reconstruction of a

gig in the Nashville Spitbucket & Firkin in 1974 as possible or

these guys are FO-WUR REE-YUL.

Shame, because fighting to break through these fossilized production values is a feisty, fiery

Southern punk band with the downhome melodic nous of prime Neil Young, the dark gothic

preacherman vision of ‘Murder Ballad’-era Nick Cave and the vitriolic slaver of

[a]Sex Pistols[/a] if they’d been

raised on the rodeo. When Caleb launches into his frantic Country Iggy barking at the final chorus of

‘Spiral Staircase’, ‘Red Morning Light’ and

‘Tranny’ – still the most romantic song about transvestite slaughter ever written

– it’s as visceral and savage as getting mowed down by a runaway combine harvester. Plus, the two

new songs that make up the encore – the wonderfully reclined pop waltz ‘Slow’,

which somehow finds a middle ground between Spiritualized, The Wedding Present and (ahem)

The Bluebells, and the frustratingly tuneless closer ‘Fire My

Pistol’ – are way too obtuse and understated to be Phase Two of any Hicks Club 7

‘project’. Instead they’re the sound of Kings

Of Leon’s kicking off their grit-stained cowboy boots after a hard year riding

fashion’s bucking bronco and relaxing into the porch swing chair of the Big League. And they’d

have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those pesky cotton wool speaker


A gross, unholy mess, then, mired in muggy magic. Have you heard the whispers? Beneath the dust

and dirt they’ve sheltered rock’s new Kings…

Mark Beaumont