Kings of Leon are on the second round of their Mechanical Bull tour and again graced Toronto with their presence on Tuesday at the Molson Amphitheatre. Bringing along Kongos and Young the Giant for the ride, the Amp was full and the beers were flowing, all marks of a solid rock show.
Kongos opened up the show with Hey I Don’t Know from their most recent album Lunatic. Despite kicking off at an early 7pm with a mere ¼ full amphitheatre, their energy was high and they were visibly stoked to be at a far bigger venue than last time they played our fair city (they played the Opera House during CMW in May.) They rolled through a bunch of songs from Lunatic, including I’m Only Joking, whose drum beats really highlight their South African roots, and I Wanna Know, their summery, reggae-feeling jam. Mid-set, Dylan Kongos revealed that they were asked by their label to write a list of bands they would like to play with and that Kings of Leon and Young the Giant were at the top. Talk about a dream come true for these four brothers from Johannesburg! They closed the set with Come With Me Now which, being as radio heavy as it is currently, was the clear crowd favourite.
After a quick changeover, Young The Giant took the stage and launched right into Anagram from their new album Mind Over Matter which dropped in January of this year. Sameer Gadhia, who fronts the band, was a ball of energy as he tore through a bunch of tracks from their new album. Early on, Gadhia shared with the audience that their guitarist had broken his elbow and their Tour Manager Stu was filling in for them on this night. They tossed in a couple of songs from their 2011 self titled album, including Cough Syrup which resulted in an audience sing-a-long. Gadhia’s vocals gave me goosebumps as I watched him hit the song’s climax and visibly explode on stage. Despite Gadhia’s fervor, I was a bit underwhelmed by their set as I felt that he carried them when it came to stage presence. As the lead in the band, he is naturally the centre of attention but if it weren’t for his exuberance and penchant for dancing and jerking around on stage like a maniac, I might have been down right bored by their performance. It seems especially important when playing an amphitheatre, as you need to fill such a large space with your presence to keep the audience engaged. However, this doesn’t completely take away from the fact that YTG is made up of very talented musicians and their performance musically did not disappoint one bit. They finished the set on a high note, playing My Body and it definitely felt like the best part of their set.
At this point in the night, it’s about 9pm. Everyone is sufficiently lubricated by the $15 bubba beers from the bar, and as the lights go out the crowd erupts into deafening screams (note: I must remember to bring earplugs next time.) In one fluid motion, the entire near 16,000 member strong audience rises to their feet and is dancing as the first chord of Supersoaker is strummed right through until the last note of Sex on Fire is played at near 11pm. With no time for covers, Kings of Leon treated fans to a 25-song set that was stacked full of hits and die-hard favourites. A little after mid-set, they broke out an oldie, Soft (from Aha Shake Heartbreak), proclaiming that this was the first time they had played the track since 2009 and was the only time it was being played on the entire tour. As this was the second round of their Mechanical Bull tour, they used most of the same visualizations and video feeds from the last show in February, but paired up with the strong light show the stage set up was incredible. The cuts and overlays of the live performance feed made the big screens look like you were watching a music video cut in front of you, and the visualizations for Closer were mesmerizing.
KoL guitarist Matthew Followill wowed the crowd with teeth picking part of Closer, while I sat there getting dizzy from the flood of unnerving emotion dripping through Caleb Followill’s teeth. I’m not sure there is a world where seeing KoL perform Closer won’t make me shiver. Near the end of the set, the brothers requested that everyone bust out their phones and light them up during Cold Desert. The video feed on the screen was shot from the drummer’s point of view, and it looked out to a crowd full of 16,000 fireflies and the result was pretty beautiful (albeit a pretty standard happening at concerts, it was the first time I saw the result from the band’s perspective.) Finishing off their pre-encore set with Use Somebody and Black Thumbnail, they had the audience begging for an encore, banging on the plastic Amphitheatre seats and drumming up a thunderstorm inside of the venue. They enthralled the fans for two more hits, finishing off with Crawl and Sex on Fire, leaving them exhausted and riding on the high we all get from seeing an amazing band bewitch you with a powerful and exciting performance.
Review by Ashley Smith |