Royal Blood – Brighton Dome – 20th December 2014

With recourse to stating the bleedin’ obvious, the dynamic duo have done good, haven’t they? From nowhere to everywhere in less than two years, it’s a very rare story of almost instant success and acclaim that could not have being predicted.
Sold out within minutes and no doubt capable of carrying a venue many times the size of the Dome, it feels as if Royal Blood have got a little ahead of themselves. Normally, you would be expected to work a little harder for such fame and fortune. Ben Thatcher and Mike Kerr have barely been playing together properly for two years as Royal Blood (although they have known each other for many years, and indeed have played together previous to RB), but a combination of super-tight playing, a handful of blistering rock gems – the kind of head-banging music we can never get enough of it seems; witness the continuing deification of acts such as AC/DC and Led Zep – the outward support of indie gods Arctic Monkeys, the unique guitar/bass sound of Kerr, and the fact they are the new kids on the block, and British to boot, have already translated to near-stardom. Recently pictured with the Queen of the East, Babs Windsor, can only help them on to meeting and greeting real royalty…
Heady stuff, and the band will ride this bull as best they can, for surely the limitations of their two-man approach will come to light, sooner than later. Not that this unduly bothered White Stripes, but Jack White had a far wider and deeper musical palette up his sleeve, as well as a canny eye for artsy imagery; Royal Blood, while very exciting, have little of that at the moment. Playing for less than an hour, and with no encore, the duo blazed through twelve numbers, including all ten from their number one album; a frenzy of massive riffing and smashing drums. Whether or not they have anything else up their sleeves, remains to be seen. But for the moment it’s all about wringing every last drop out of their small set list…
Entering to the rather cliqued sounds of pleasant classical music (you know, soon to be blasted away by some unholy racket…), Hole kicks things off. An early track, and one of only two played here that are not on the album, The sub-Black Sabbath riff at it’s heart is perhaps the least inspiring moment of the gig; a surprising opener, but perhaps rather worryingly, an indicator of the lack of repertoire at their disposal.
Come On Over though sees the crowd go wild, bouncing on the rather dignified dancefloor of the Dome, while Figure It Out sees Kerr, for the first time, jump on the drum riser to meet his only bandmate square on, blissfully bashing and riffing their way onwards, while Thatcher does his inner-Kashmir thing, with the opening of Better Strangers, and Kerr lets rips on that strange guitar hybrid sound that basically involves a doubling up of guitar and bass; two instruments in one, and played with deceptive ease, aided and abetted by some seriously technoid pedal action.
The crowd go nuts for Little Monster, at this point many of the men going topless as the moshing gets more intense. Then Blood Hands comes in, sounding much huger than the recorded version, and it’s at this point that the bludgeoning rifferama of the band becomes a little one-dimensional, most of the the nuances of the record lost within the confines of the hall, not built with the sound properties of super heavy guitars and ringing snares in mind. Not that this seems to be a problem for the crowd tonight. It’s a Saturday night, it’s Christmas, the boys are in town for a rare hometown visit, and the booze is flowing. Bring the Noise!
And so the sonic bludgeoning continued with Careless, Loose Change and set closer Out of the Black, which features a rare off-record foray into feedback and the like, before the song powers its way to its expected cathartic conclusion, Kerr unceremoniously dumping his guitar onto the drums. Finally, the last note has been struck of a huge, and no doubt draining, year for the band. Time to take five, and plan the next onslaught.
Jeff Hemmings