Royal Blood at the Velvet Underground

Photographs by Neil Van

It’s a standard radio station promotional idea to offer listeners an exclusive concert with a favourite artist in an intimate venue.  More daring stations add a twist.  Toronto alt rock station 102.1 the Edge’s offers their Edge Secret Thing series inviting listeners to such a show – but the artist is not known.  The mystery factor is meant to add to the experience, and it works.  A crowd gathered at The Velvet Undergound on Queen St. West and the surprise guest turned out to be Royal Blood.

The British rockers hail from Brighton, a seaside town that conjures images of quiet beach walks and quaint cafes. Perhaps it is exactly this environment that fueled Royal Blood’s need to be loud, to be heard.  The band is actually a duo made up of drummer Ben Thatcher and frontman/bassist, Mike Kerr.  They came to the stage full of energy and determination.  They started with Where Are You Now?, then moved to Lights Out and Figure It Out.  Royal Blood draws its sound from the harder edged rock bands of past eras.  They are a good dose of 90s alt rock with 70s mega-band attitude.  They play every song with all guns blazing and every tune evokes cool bands that went before.  Sonically, there are glimpses of The White Stripes, the Offspring, Led Zeppelin, Muse and Kings of Leon.  Regardless of who you think you hear, that’s a lot of sound coming from just two men with two instruments.  The music is heavy enough to elicit fist pumping and pogoing, yet with enough of a pop hook that you want to sing along.  Kerr and Thatcher worked hard for the accolades they hoped to earn from their audience.  Drenched in sweat by the show’s end, they had given Toronto a solid hour of their passion and talent.  For anyone who loses sleep at night fearing that Rock is dead, Royal Blood offers more than a little hope.

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