Kings Of Leon: Shockwaves NME Awards Show, Astoria, London; Monday February 26

Kings Of Leon: Shockwaves NME Awards Show, Astoria, London; Monday February 26

Celebrities come out of the woodwork to hear the best album of the Kings’ career

You might think that three Pentecostal evangelist’s sons and their cousin from remote Tennessee are unlikely candidates for friends-to-the-stars status, but these four kings have always been favoured by the famous. From support slots with U2 to hanging about in tree houses with supermodels, they’ve fraternised with celebrity and tonight is no exception. Noel Gallagher’s eyes are glued to the stage throughout, save a few lonely trips to the bar. Brandon Flowers is standing at the back of the VIP balcony, sporting a mysterious graze to the bridge of his nose and the whitest, straightest teeth in the room, while members of Travis and Hard-Fi jostle for space on the packed VIP area.

Tonight, the devoted are going to get the hits they’re after, but they’re going to have to work for them. Because the Kings have a new album that sees them scaling the heights of the debut, and they want us to hear it. They launch straight into new track ‘Black Thumbnail’ with no explanation, and follow it with the equally unknown likes of vocoder-heavy ‘My Party’ and recent single ‘On Call’. Both are immense, but it’s the juggernaut drums and scratched raw guitars of the epic ‘McFearless’ that really stands out, Caleb’s heartbreakingly honest, cracked, raspy vocals the odd but perfect accompaniment to the noise from behind.

They might want to detach themselves from the young manhood of old, but as ‘The Bucket’ kicks in it’s obvious they haven’t lost that upstart verve. ‘Molly’s Chambers’ and ‘Spiral Staircase’ are starting to sound timeless, and the envy of every other musician in here is palpable as they realise these are songs they’ll never write. And that’s before we get to ‘California Waiting’. As they finish the encore with ‘Slow Night, So Long’ and the crowd disappears under a layer of bodies and plastic cups, we realise we haven’t moved our eyes and bodies for the last hour-and-a-half. America might not care about these boys yet, but we’ll look after them.

Fiona Byrne