Royal Blood – Brighton Centre – 29th November 2017

Royal Blood – Brighton Centre
Photo by Jamie Macmillan

There was no place like home for Royal Blood as they ended a hugely successful tour with a blistering show at the Brighton Centre. It is unlikely that any tour in 2017 has been able to boast a line-up like the three bands on display tonight, and they all put on masterful performances starting with fellow locals Black Honey. Similarly to Royal Blood, these last few weeks have had the air of a promotion parade for the spiky four-piece and it felt like an emotional night for them.

Led by Izzy Baxter, they looked every inch a band on the cusp of the big league and appeared fully at home on the cavernous stage. In an electric display, Baxter in particular already looks like a star just waiting to be discovered. ‘Madonna’ and ‘Somebody Better’ were great moments, but it was ‘Spinning Wheel’ that lit the night up for the first time. Picked out by a spotlight in the opening moments, Baxter’s vocals were captivating before Chris Ostler’s surf rock riff crashed in. It might just be the song that proves that 2018 is theirs for the taking.

From a band of future greatness, to one that has been lauded for nearly a quarter of a century. The announcement that At The Drive In were supporting Royal Blood (who idolised ATDI as kids) sent shockwaves through the rock world, and they have lived up to that excitement on every night of this tour. Beginning with ‘Arcarsenal’, intense doesn’t even begin to describe the band, especially Cedric Bixler on vocals. A spinning, whirling, leaping Tasmanian Devil of a man with a shock of curly hair covering his face for much of the show, he is a formidable presence on stage. Leaping from drum kits, amps, swinging the microphone stand around dangerously close to his colleagues, it is mesmerising to watch. With Keeley Davis and Omar Rodriguez driving the energy of the band ever onwards and upwards while Tony Hajjar laid the gauntlet down to Ben Thatcher as the biggest-hitting drummer of the night, their return from a 17-year hiatus appears to be as seamless and joyous as fans hoped.

At The Drive In don’t so much take left turns during songs, rather they perform screeching handbrake turns at high speed. ‘Quarantined’ purveyed a dreamy, almost psychedelic haze at its beginning and conclusion, acting as delicious layers to the bone-crunching riffs in its centre. ‘Enfilade’ combined grinding guitars with elements of hardcore, before ‘One Armed Scissor’ blew the roof off. Whereas up until this point you could see a slightly dazed and confused look on some of the faces of the average Royal Blood fan, during this frenzied finale tiny pockets of the crowd erupted and grew into circle pits as the penny dropped as to just why this is a hugely beloved band.

Any thoughts of being intimidated after having to follow that dissipated the moment that Royal Blood entered the fray, kicking off with the huge ‘Lights Out’. Up close, the sheer power that drummer Ben Thatcher possesses is jaw-dropping – nearly lifting himself out of his seat with the force of each thump. Mike Kerr has transmuted into the definitive rock frontman, prowling and stalking along the full length of the runway. If that opener was huge, then ‘Come On Over’ was gargantuan, the volume generated by the pair deafening. As if the sound itself wasn’t enough, the stage production was exceptional – a red laser grid at points descending over the duo, alongside a stunning light display.

Kerr’s use of pedals is as impressive as his fret work, allowing so many different effects and styles to be present throughout each track. Meanwhile, Thatcher has obviously been given free reign to open the drummers’ playbox with cowbells and even a giant gong present and correct (which he hilariously struck later with a flaming mallet at the finale of ‘Sleep’). During ‘Little Monster’, he performed an incredible drum solo that was so good that the only facial expressions on audience members’ faces were big, stupid grins. As Kerr strutted down the runway, shredding all the way, there were absolute scenes from the crowd. “Do what you want tonight, we’re not Keane!” he cried, before re-iterating “well, we are keen but just not, you know…Keane”.

There was a party mood all night, and the sense that all were present to celebrate the heroes’ successful homecoming was added to by the sporadic ‘Seagulls’ chants during the set – Kerr joked at one point that everybody on the balconies were probably local friends on the guest list. Thatcher even got in on the act by disappearing and returning in a Brighton football shirt to an obviously huge response. There were two major circle pits in business all show long, before the fierce one-two of ‘Loose Change’ and ‘Figure It Out’ caused them to merge and crash as the entire front of the Centre lost their collective minds. As the encore ended with mammoth versions of ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’ and ‘Out of the Black’, Thatcher clambered into the crowd to stand upright, held aloft by all of the outstretched and adoring hands. It was a suitably euphoric moment on which to end the night and tour, and an image that will live long in all our minds. Welcome home boys, job well done.

Jamie Macmillan