Photos by Dawn Hamilton.
The Kings of Leon are on a comeback mission to prove to the world that their massive 2008 album Only By The Night was not a fluke and that they deserve to be on top of the music pyramid. They started this challenge by asking the very capable Deerhunter to open for them. Deerhunter could be touring on their own selling out venues like Danforth, but allowing themselves to play before KoL helps boost their own brand to a wider audience. Though more of an indie band they have a similar enough sound to compliment the headliners as they still play guitar focused rock music, albeit with a more experimental flair. The set consisted mostly of songs off their last release 2015’s Fading Frontier with the stand out being Living My Life a song that is fairly low key on the album, but it has taken a new life with a funky bass beat and a playful saxophone solo. The songs on which lead singer Bradford Cox played guitar were soaked in reverb guitar giving the band a grungier sound.
A red velvet curtain hung on the stage and as it was raised up fog creeped out and bright red lights behind the band shone brightly casting them in shadows as the family band from Nashville started out with The End, the album opener from 2010’s Come Around Sundown. The show was high energy from the start with their album’s pure Rock n Roll sound. They finally allowed the audience to take their breath with the Beach Boys-esque Mucacho from last years WALLS as Caleb Followill played an acoustic guitar for the first time on the night. The stage was modestly set up for a band of their stature, a moderate sized screen stood behind the foursome with old Hollywood style set lights on tripods placed around the stage and a simple lighting rig hung overhead. For a venue the size of the ACC, they certainly didn’t occupy a lot of real estate. Kings of Leon’s live shows are always described as music focused and their set up of two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer was the attraction.
The band pounded out each song with almost no breaks, that hearing Caleb speak every once in a while was quite surprising. Sentiments were kept short and sweet like “I hope none of you plan on going into work tomorrow. We have the day off tomorrow and we plan on partying.” As the band segued into Over from WALLS the stage started to come alive a bit, hinting at what was to come. The edge of the stage and border of all the screens pulsed white lights matching the heart pounding beats of Nathan’s drumming and Jared’s bass playing.
Caleb told the crowd how the band was looking forward to the Toronto show, which may have just been a ploy to get the audiences attention but if that didn’t work playing their massive hit Sex On Fire sure did, generating one of the biggest sing a longs I’ve ever witnessed at the ACC. After forty minutes of playing, the curtains dropped back down and Caleb took to the front of the stage armed with just an acoustic guitar to play The Runner as lighters and cellphones came out to wave in unison. The rest of the band joined Caleb to continue the mini acoustic break with Comeback Story, a song that sounded inspired by Paul Simon’s Graceland. The band cleared the stage front again as Caleb began to play WALLS, the outro from their newest album before the curtains shot up exposing the new massive stage set up and everyone joining in with him. A giant screen along the back wall dwarfed the old screen, which was now just a minor headboard screen. A few extra backing musicians were also present to support the band as a keyboardist and extra guitarist added to the sound. The band finally looked the part of being a headliner.
Caleb thanked Deerhunter for opening for them and told the crowd that the band is big fans of their work but admitted to actually not yet meeting them despite having already played three shows together (Toronto included). The band has seven albums so it gave them plenty of material to work with, pulling tracks from every single one of them giving the crowd a very diverse set. Finally after 90-minutes of playing the band played their massive single from last year Waste A Moment keeping the dance music flowing. As if not stroking our ego’s enough by complimenting the city, Caleb told a story about how the night previous the band attended the Raptors game where they “saw you beat the shit out of the Knicks” (Raptors beat the Knicks 116-101) and talked about getting to see how big the venue was as a spectator making them appreciate being on stage to the sell out crowd all the more. This lead into Use Somebody, their other massive hit from Only By The Night, as they breathed new life into a song everyone had heard a billion times before making it seem just as exciting as the first time it came on the radio.
The set finished with the new song Around The World as the band asked crew members to join them on stage and play tambourines, giving them a chance to feel like rock stars too. Pink and blue confetti that matched the WALLS artwork sprayed over the crowd giving a joyous feeling. It sprayed in such great quantity it gave the illusion that it was snowing inside. The band didn’t perform an encore, nor did it tell the crowd it wouldn’t they just repeatedly thanked everyone for coming out and exited the stage as the house lights came up. For a band that has its doubters, seeing them live will cure any ill will you may have about them, as they are true showmen as they are masters of their instruments without any flashy gimmicks to bring them down or distract the audience.