Royal Blood live in London: a celebration of life, friendship and the late Taylor Hawkins

March 30, The O2: The Brighton rock duo dance’s rebirth comes good as they emerge as a bona fide arena band

“Oh. My. God” says stunned frontman Mike Kerr just a couple of songs into Royal Blood’s biggest London show to date. He calls for the lights to be turned up so he can see as much of the endless audience as possible. “This is unbelievable. I feel like my heart and stomach have temporarily switched place.”

You can’t blame him. A lot has been written about how a duo can make so much noise – it’s just a bass, y’know? – but it must feel pretty damn profound for two mates to be connecting with an arena as big as these. Aided by an extra pair of hands on synths to recreate the colour from their disco-tinged third album ‘Typhoons’, their primal energy meets a certain swagger under a mirrorball shimmer; they know this recent UK tour has cemented their place as a bona fide arena titans.

The live production may seem modest for a venue like this – just a screen, a platform and some fancy lights – but they’ve got the spirit to make up for it. The sass of newbies like ‘Trouble’s Coming’, ‘Limbo’ and the irresistibly groovy ‘Boilermaker’ bleeds into the more brutal older cuts like ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Come On Over’, with Kerr the comfortable master of ceremonies and drummer Ben Thatcher the beast at the back.

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Royal Blood live at The O2, London. Credit: Jamie Waters for NME
Credit: Jamie Waters for NME

Thatcher frequently necks Patron from the bottle – both from behind the kit and casually strolling the stage – much to the crowd’s delight. But hey, this is a celebration of life and togetherness, as well as how far they’ve come as pals. After new single ‘Honeybrains’ goes down a storm, the pair high-five like giddy teenagers and Kerr recalls the decade that has passed since he called Thatcher to say, “I’m doing this two-piece thing. You wanna be in it?”

Turning to Thatcher, he continues: “The day you said yes to me then, my life changed. I love you”. The drummer visibly creases in embarrassment. “Now he’s angry,” chuckles Kerr, kicking into a feral outing of early favourite ‘Little Monster’ – extended with an almighty drum solo as a photo of Thatcher with the late, great Foo Fighters sticksman Taylor Hawkins beams from the back of the stage. If the crowd weren’t already upstanding, they were now.

As Kerr pines on the tender piano number that sees in the encore, “All we have is now”. In the spirit of Hawkins, tonight was about loving life, living in the moment, and making a whole lot of noise.

Royal Blood live at The O2, London. Credit: Jamie Waters for NME
Credit: Jamie Waters for NME

Royal Blood played:

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‘Typhoons’
‘Boilermaker’
‘Lights Out’
‘Come on Over’
‘Trouble’s Coming’
‘Hook, Line & Sinker’
‘Honeybrains’
‘Little Monster’
‘How Did We Get So Dark?’
‘Blood Hands’
‘Million and One’
‘Limbo’
‘Loose Change’
‘Figure It Out’
Encore:
‘All We Have Is Now’
‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’
‘Out of the Black’

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