I know it (probably) goes without saying, but I don’t want to watch a man do his taxes (or a woman for that matter #GenderEquality and stuff). I don’t want to watch someone sending an email, crunching some numbers, writing an invoice or doing any other businessy worky type thing. I would list more, but that is the full extent of my understanding of office work, and I think you get the idea. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t want to watch someone doing their job. That’s not what I’m looking for when I go to a play or a concert or any kind of live performance. I want to see something that’s just that, a live performance. So after leaving Birmingham Arena a few weeks ago, I wanted my money back.
I know Emma’s slated them on this blog before, even coining the legendary term “Kings Of Lame”, but I was always a believer. I didn’t hate the new album, despite Emma’s contagious musings, I was, along with the rest of the world, staunchly in the “three star” category. “Yeah. It’s fine. It’s actually ok.” A lukewarm reception. A tepid welcome. I was adamant not to be one of those “I only like they’re old stuff” people who sounds like someone off of Lie Witness News. So when tickets for their upcoming UK tour were released (leaving out London, which is in line with the whole “room temperature” approach they seem to be going for), I bought tickets for Birmingham. “Maybe it’s one of those albums that doesn’t read properly until you see them live,” I thought hopefully. Oh, Past Caitlin. How naive you were.
I’m not saying it was a trainwreck. It wasn’t Reading 2009 where Caleb famously walked off stage during “Sex On Fire”, accusing the audience of not being real fans. No. I would have loved that. At least a trainwreck is entertaining. At least it would have showed some sort of emotion. Four songs into the set Caleb greeted us, “We’re the Kings of Leon.” That was all he said. For an hour and a half.
Excuse me. We know who you are. We paid a stupid amount of money to squish up against these people whose body odour I would really rather not be smelling so pungently and you’re going to tell me the name of your band? What about saying hello to us? It’s not only because I was dying to hear Caleb say the word Birmingham but also because I wanted him to acknowledge that we’re different from the crowd of last night and will be different to the one tomorrow. An audience wants to feel special. Last summer, we saw Arcade Fire at Nos Alive Festival in Portugal and they learnt Portuguese! Like eight phrases in Portuguese! Just to show the audience how much they gave a shit that it was us they were performing to and not anyone else. Bruce Springsteen at Croke Park in Dublin played for five hours (very common for the Boss who looks like some sort of wonderful angel rather than a man of his incredibly impressive 67 years). I’m not saying I wanted KOL to play for five hours (honestly, after this gig I was really really ok with them finishing within a reasonable time) but The Boss nattered away to us, taking signs from the audience and telling us how much he loved Dublin.
The concert continued more or less the same. The band stood like statues underneath a red velvet curtain, the unimaginative stage and lighting design lent itself wholly to the idea that this album wasn’t better live, in fact it was even worse live due to the fact that it became so clear that it was as apathetic and as middle-of-the-road as any of the guy-with-guitar crooners you get in the charts these days. The lighting designer didn’t know what the album was about. The set designer didn’t know what the album was about. Even Caleb couldn’t commit to his own passionless lyrics, as he messed up the words for the title song WALLS, saying “an Eastern girl with Western eyes” in the first bridge (the actual lyric is “a Western girl with Eastern eyes”) demonstrating a case-in-point so infuriating it made me want to hang my head in disappointment, which in itself is as impassive a response as the show itself.
But to be honest, I think this lack of connection goes both ways. We, as audience members, hold part of the blame. The only spike in this otherwise trudging, monotonous concert was during “Sex On Fire” and “Use Somebody”, KOL’s biggest selling tunes. *sigh*. The crowd went wild; a much crazier response than for any of the other songs by far. What was everyone’s first response? To grab their phones and record the whole thing The crowd was aglow with snapchat buttons being held down, flashes going off and somewhere ten people in front of us a giant IPAD, yes IPAD was raised into the crowd so now, as an absolute shortass myself, I was forced to watch the performance through everyone else’s screen.
I hate hate hate HATE being that person, honestly I do, because it makes me feel like my dad or a member of the Lumineers (we’ll talk about that another time) but I think this must be equally as frustrating for the band watching a crowd full of phones as a detached performance is for us. Especially in light of Caleb’s previous storm-off (see above). If we’re not engaging with them, how can we expect them to engage with us? They just stand there like pretty Instagram dolls, ready to be posted online as easily as checking in to your local TGI Friday’s. Gone are the days of the ill-fitting flares and bad haircuts of the early-2000s performance from Caleb and his Kings. Even more far gone are the screeching sets demonstrated in my favourite live vid of ALL. TIME. of the Kings at Bonaroo in 2004 (I know, when you see the date written down you’re like “what, 2004 was like two years ago?” Well IT WASN’T, it was THIRTEEN YEARS AGO and if you don’t believe me just use how boring KOL have got since then as some sort of weird aging-rockstar-timeline).
So, in the spirit of keeping live shows alive and not emotionless, plastic (see WALLS album cover for an ironic confirmation of this) and to be honest just plain boring, the bond needs to be rebuilt between the people onstage and the people in the pit (truth: i wasn’t actually in the pit, I don’t like to get too much beer in my hair, but you have to admit that sentence has a nice ring to it). So next time you go to a concert, remember that it’s a two way street. No one wants to watch a guy doing their taxes, even if it is Caleb Followill.
[Picture source: http://eventsincolorado.com/content/things-do-108-new-colorado-concerts-events-and-festivals-added-oct-12-18-including-kings]