Photographs by Neil Van.
Brighton’s Royal Blood had themselves a busy Thursday night in Toronto. The two-piece went from opening the Molson Amphitheatre stage for the Foo Fighters to packing in their own fans for a much more intimate affair at Tattoo.
Having seen them open for Dave Grohl and company both that night and the night before (joining them for a pair of sold out shows at the Amphitheatre,) I was looking forward to again seeing the band translate their admittedly booming, open-air ready sound to a smaller stage.
It’s been something Royal Blood has triumphed with in the past: then putting on an excellent Toronto debut at Lee’s Palace in 2014. Opening spots with bands like Muse, as well as stops at festivals such as New York City’s Governors Ball, has only helped to bolster their draw… though clearly they didn’t need much help in selling out Tattoo.
The venue was packed – we’re talking 2014 Future Islands level rammed. The corporate sponsors are getting in on it too. Budweiser was there to make sure everyone had their ice cold, king of beers appropriately raised – no doubt triumphant marketing material for Bud’s next we-love-live-music campaign.
Royal Blood made good on their promise to deliver a sweaty show, taking to the stage as Jay Z’s “99 Problems” blasted out over the crowd. Their setlist mirrored their Foo Fighter-opening offerings – diverging only with the additions of “Better Strangers” and “Blood Hands”. Curiously, the band left off “Careless” – a song that had made its on-stage debut back at October’s Lee’s Palace show.
Beyond nitpicking song choices though, there was still plenty to cheer for. From the start of “Come On Over” to the closing of “Out of the Black”, you could tell the band didn’t have much to prove to a crowd that was already theirs. You could also tell they were still going to make a defiant show of it though.
Midway point “Little Monster” was a big highlight – drummer Ben Thatcher stoically staring out at the crowd from behind his kit before launching into massive drum rolls. Bassist and singer Mike Kerr summed it up best, saying: “I watch him everyday. I still can’t believe it.”
Kerr himself is an enigmatic stage presence – making noises with his instrument unrivaled in modern music. First off, you’re blown away by the sheer noise two people manage to make. It’s huge. It’s also very clean. They’re both talented musicians who have stripped away the stereotypical garage distortions in favour of much more technical-but-still-blues-sounding approaches. It’s music by people that clearly like music. It’s booming and, in a venue the size of Tattoo, it goes a long, long way in getting a crowd riled up.
“Ten Tonne Skeleton” was noteworthy for the stop-start instrumentals, while the heavy, slow notes from Kerr that gave way to Thatcher’s rapid fire toms and cymbals on set closer “Out of the Black” was brash and delightful to watch; validation for skipping the end of Foo’s to see Royal Blood.
While the set clocked in at only 10 songs and a short 45-minutes in length, there’s no doubt the band has got a lot left to give (and all the more reason to look forward to their sophomore album.)
As their third Toronto show in two days can attest to, Royal Blood has fun with what they do. It helps enormously that they’re unbelievably good at it, too.
Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.