MAY 29th 2015

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan


So walking into The Vogue on a Saturday night knowing I was going to see Royal Blood I was not quite sure what to expect.  Having said that the crowd is usually a good gauge as to how a band performs: are they excited, are they dressed a certain way, is the energy there?  There was no doubt that they were, there was a good variety, and definitely.

As the lights dimmed and Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher came onto the stage to “Guerilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine, like a sports team pumping themselves up before a game, the crowd roared.  The show was sold out and bodies were pushing up against each other trying to get in as close as they could.

The boys opened with “Come on Over”, followed by “So Cruel” and “Figure It Out”.  It’s hard to believe when listening that this is only a two-piece, with Kerr on bass and Thatcher on drums, but they own it. Kerr plays his bass like a six string and there are only a couple of songs (like “Blood On My Hands” and “Careless”) where a guitar would give their sound a little more shape.

Kerr has been compared to Matthew Bellamy of Muse vocally, and there is no doubt that there are some parallels. The band has only had their album out a little over a year and they are one of the most talked about new-comers to the scene.  It all started when the drummer Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys came on stage wearing a Royal Blood t-shirt and people wondered: who are those guys?  If it was good enough for Helders, it must be good. And so good that Royal Blood gained a following that includes Jimmy Page and Dave Grohl (with whom they are touring starting in August 2015).

Both Kerr and Thatcher have been in larger bands before, however they both agree that in the whittling down of band members, it was easier to work with two: this simplified the writing process and there are less people to placate. But I digress: back to the music.  On “Better Stranger” I have to say that Thatcher almost seemed held back. He puts on a great show with relatively simple drumming, however you can tell there’s a fire behind him that is dying to be allowed to breathe.  Kerr has a little more latitude on bass, and does a great job with pedals and reverb to make his lone strings sound bigger and bolder that they would otherwise be.  This was abundantly clear when they launched into “Loose Change” and “Ten Tonne Skeleton”.

So where did such a huge Canadian following come from for a very new 2-piece Brit band that straddles the line between rock/indie/euro-pop?  Chatting with people in the crowd it sounds like a lot of word of mouth.  Many of the concert-goers did not know much of Royal Blood’s music but have heard they put on a great show; so they wanted to partake themselves.  And they weren’t disappointed.  During the closing number “One Dark Day”, the band’s first release, Kerr went over and helped Thatcher out on the symbols while still fingering his bass.  Then Thatcher hopped out into the crowd and was surfed back to stage after a little tour of the floor.  The whole time the fans were belting out lyrics, jumping and surfing, and crying out for more.  One girl went so far as to give up her bra to get them back on stage.

So what kind of music do they play?  Tough one. There are bits of Muse, there are bits of Foo Fighters, White Stripes, P.O.D., and more.  The sound is unique but becoming more popular as you can see by Royal Blood’s touring schedule: they played Coachella in April, are doing some solo shows (with terribly underwhelming opening band Mini Mansions), and are set to tour with Foo Fighters and slip in a few more festival appearances at the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas and Rock in Rio! in Brazil.  Did they set out to cross musical genres and have feet in the hearts of pop-ers and rockers alike?  Who knows.  But both young and old were in attendance for the Vancouver show (I saw an 8 year old girl and a 65 year old man all having a blast) and the consensus was unanimous: they rocked it the fuck out.

4.5 Devil Horns out of 5