Royal Blood live in Bristol: an exhilarating return from chart-topping rock behemoths

O2 Academy Bristol, July 21: The duo make their long-awaited live return, and rise to the occasion

The weight of anticipation hangs heavy in the air at Royal Blood’s first show in well over a year. “You may have to excuse me if I’m a bit shy tonight,” singer Mike Kerr tells the audience as ‘Come On Over’ sends them wild, his first words to the fist-pumping fans before tentatively offering a more traditional live call out: “You feeling good?”

It turns out they are. Their first gig since the band’s third album ‘Typhoons’ became their third successive UK Number One record, for many fans this is their first standing live show in a year and a half – and for one young fan we speak to in the crowd, it’s their first ever gig. Fortunately, by the time the new record’s title-track opens proceedings – a dramatic splash of colour from a band who, by their own admission, built the early stage of their career on heightened monochrome – it already feels worth the wait.

Alongside drummer Ben Thatcher – who is in imperious form tonight, the kind that wholly justifies the extravagant drum solo that follows ‘Little Monster’ – Kerr maintains the pace with newly-minted fan favourite ‘Boilermaker’, the Josh Homme-produced number sounding as deliciously raw as the studio recording. Not for the first time, it’s tempting to wonder on this evidence why the band didn’t make more comprehensive use of the Queens Of The Stone Age frontman in the studio.

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By the time the duo are hitting solid-gold crowd pleasers, Kerr has opened up a little further. “We’re having a good time with you people tonight,” he tells the sold out O2 Academy crowd. “That’s all that matters, right?” It’s telling that even the set’s run of songs from second album ‘How Did We Get So Dark’, written during a time that Kerr admits he felt “lost”, take on a renewed vigour this evening.

A swift encore arrives with ‘Figure It Out’, but frankly they could be singing the contents of a takeaway menu at this point – the audience, sweaty and euphoric, are already putty in their hands. What perhaps feels most vindicating is that the newer material from ‘Typhoon’ – the kind of white-hot disco-rock immaculately captured by closing number ‘Limbo’ – slides almost flawlessly into the rest of the set, a collection of songs engineered to make anxious young rock fans feel excited for one night.

It’s entirely understandable that Kerr might feel a little shy when it comes to frontman bravado – as he told NME earlier this year in a Big Read, he’s embraced sobriety after the excess of previous tours took their toll. Indeed, Royal Blood are not quite at full throttle tonight – but lord, they’re mighty close. Regardless, the band still manages to rattle out the kind of live show that will remind many fans of what they’ve been missing; and for some, perhaps, it’s an exhilarating first time.

Royal Blood played:

‘Typhoons’
‘Boilermaker’
‘Come On Over’
‘Lights Out’
‘Hook, Line & Sinker’
‘I Only Lie When I Love You’
‘Trouble’s Coming’
‘Oblivion’
‘Little Monster’
‘How Did We Get So Dark?’
‘Blood Hands’
‘Loose Change’
‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’
‘Out Of The Black’
‘Figure It Out’
‘Limbo’

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