Royal Blood at The Olympia Theatre – Review & Photos
When you look at Brighton based duo, Royal Blood, it’s safe to say they don’t quite fit in with the other rock bands on the scene at the moment. Their drum and bass rock style strongly stands out in comparison to the more electronica-based musicians, focused on enhancing their sound with pedals and mysterious buttons (albeit Mike Kerr’s bass has been altered to sound like a guitar and then a bass when required). However, it’s safe to say that this was primarily due to their focus on returning to a more classical rock sound, they were unconcerned with pushing switches or refining their sound with some sort of auto-tune. Their guttural vocals, gritty guitar riffs, and the overall pared back nature of their sound gave this familiar garage/bluesy rock sound that harked back to Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys.
So how did this pared back quality work out for their live performance? How do a relatively new rock duo rock out the packed out venue of the Olympia? Pretty well, in fact. Walking on the dimly lit stage with a pulsing rap track playing in the background they wordlessly burst into their performance. There was no pandering to the crowd; there was just a clear drive to immediately give their all to the crowd from start to finish. The precision attributed to each riff, every single note is impressive, their live performances remain true to the stripped back sound of their album, there’s no excess and no desire to embellish their sound beyond what it is. Their set further reflects their sound, there’s nothing too garish about the whole thing, no visual effects to draw the eye away from the performance, it’s clear that these boys want it to be all about the music with no distraction to mislead the audience. Indeed, the second they perform “Figure It Out” and “Little Monster” there’s a waving flurry of arms in their air, some intense head-banging which verges on dangerous considering the compact nature of the Olympia. It feels like a classic rock performance, noticeably, there were even significantly less arms above heads, clasping camera phones, desperately trying to get a half decent recording of “Figure It Out” to share with absent friends at a later point. The audience just seem wholly entranced with the whole affair, when the boys perform “Out Of the Black”; they’re practically drowned out by the sound of the audience chanting along. The only way Kerr seemed able to break it was when he burst into what felt like an ever-lasting guitar solo, with at least 90% of the crowd standing there in awe at his performance, jaws basically on the floor.
They’re men of few words to say the least, which is a benefit as the music remains untainted by the usual band promises that “Dublin is the best city to play”, instead the duo seem to have come up with a set injected with a little humour. At one point, Mike Kerr asks the crowd to “put their hands together for the rest of the band…” to which drummer Ben Thatcher gives a little wave from his drum stool. What they lack in members they seem to have made up for in sheer atmosphere, on a few occasions the two are but a hair’s breadth away from each other, eyes-locked as they play “Ten Tonne Skeleton”. The sheer musical tension between the two, engulfed in their performances is just amazing to watch. Of course, how do you make one album last long enough so that the crowd feel satisfied? Particularly when your crowd are as eager as Royal Blood’s? Well, besides the sheer awe-inducing guitar riffs that Kerr seemed to lose himself in, the band also reminded us of how brilliant their B-sides are as “Hole” and “You Want Me” were greeted with the same eager delight as “Loose Change” and “You Can Be So Cruel”.
They certainly weren’t a band that felt the encore is a show in itself, closing proceedings with one song, “Little Monster” but giving their all in that final track and almost doubling its normal performance time. The band are definitely trying to hark back to the classic rock age where the performance is central, not playing up to the crowd. I had been curious as to why a band that definitely had such a huge following over here wouldn’t go for one performance in the likes of the 3Arena rather than two sold-out shows in the comparatively minute Olympia. However, watching them upon finishing their sets, standing like amused two rock gods in front of their clamouring fans, surveying the sheer frenzy their set of just over an hour had created, it was clear that they prefer more intimate gigs, savouring the absolute delight that was palpable in the venue.
Review by Elaine McDonald
Photos by David Doyle