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Royal Blood at Webster Hall: A case of priceless concert contradiction

Royal Blood logo

“Royal Blood Logo,” Online Image, Royal Blood, 17 October 2014
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The age old idea of a “quick rise to fame” is something that stirs up a range of reactions, depending on the context in which said outcome is posed. Reality TV-induced overnight fame is one thing, YouTube overnight fame is another. Beyond those, there is also a quickness of fame that sits squarely in the context of music popularity, evident when the name of a band suddenly seems to appear everywhere a person turns. The latter of these sources of fame is not always overnight in the literal sense but with the volatility of the music industry and the fickleness of public taste and attention, seeing a band penetrating every avenue of press and increasingly becoming a mainstream name, all in less than a year, is no “slow grower” in today’s business.

Riff-powered rockers, Royal Blood, have managed to do just that, far away from their home base of Brighton, UK; climbing the proverbial performance ladder from blasting the scattered stages of SXSW, to intimate shows at places like Brooklyn’s iconic Glasslands Gallery, to having major press and TV appearances like their recent guest performance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher, the solidly stacked power duo that is Royal Blood, are not shying away from their multi-pronged rise to fame happening both here in the U.S. and five-fold more so, closer to home in the EU, where they are gaining so much traction, so fast, that amidst selling tickets for remaining 2014 performances, they decided to upgrade shows to larger venues in some places, “[d]ue to public demand”, as explained via their Facebook page. Even more recently, MTV announced the pair as one of the performances slated to appear at the MTV EMAs on 9 November.


Now, what typically happens when a band starts to gain more high profile attention and receive booking slots for larger capacity venues?


  • Higher ticket prices
  • More distance between fans and the artist (figuratively and literally)


Prior to that jump up to the level of high profile, mainstream attention, acts are usually doing things like fine tuning their identities/stage routine, merchandise development…maybe even still putting together their music if an album has not been released yet. (As was the case at the time when Royal Blood were at Glasslands.) These things are core to the intimacy and down-to-earth element that comes with a group still in the process of ascending the mountain of the music business. Afterward though, once the “big guns” kick in, shows can take on a feel and a look to match the larger status of a band. (e.g. Fall Out Boy’s present pyrotechnic-tinged stadium size shows, as compared with their shows during the days of teenage angst and “Take This to Your Grave.”) This change isn’t necessarily a bad thing but fans are losing an apple and gaining an orange, whether they want it or not.


Forced to choose between the accolades of being big and the charm of being small —Royal Blood was having none of that during their show last night in the Marlin Room of New York City’s Webster Hall. A room of only 500 person capacity, this show already flies in the face of where Royal Blood are on the global music industry’s radar. Webster Hall might be “big by default” because of musically historical context but given other circumstances, Royal Blood could have easily upgraded to the larger Grand Ballroom space and that would have matched the other large scale points of their current reputation. The smaller and barrier-less space inside the Marlin Room already made this show feel like one of a particular rare grade. Then, to have the price for admission reflect a dollar amount that was anything but corporately inflated, implying instead, a vibe of “We’re still local enough to not break your banks on our tickets,” solidly put the experience under the umbrella of “This will never happen in this way, ever again.

 The combined energy pumped out by Kerr, (left) and Thatcher (right) could knock down a wall.

The combined energy pumped out by Kerr, (left) and Thatcher (right) could knock down a wall.


Past logistics of show setup, Royal Blood’s actual performance simply hammered home the true uniqueness of the duo, even if a lot of the press the band has acquired focuses on the very prominent channeling of their influencing predecessors like Led Zeppelin, Muse and the White Stripes. Thatcher and Kerr are able to unquestionably stand with the likes of bands that sound just as good live as they do on studio recordings and, this is not just due to the fact that there is only two of them; implying quality only as a result of there being not much stuff with which to mess up. (which would be a gross misrepresentation of the pair’s musical ability and collaborative chemistry.) Every strummed, distorted, POG‘ed bass chord and every sharp-as-knives snare hit lifted with ease, the stampede-sized sound cranked out within the confines of pristine studio space.



This show being for the promotion of their first album, Royal Blood’s only weakness is the pure lack of age on the part of the band itself, that results in a limited amount of material to play, with limited coming to mean playing through their entire record, with room left over for another song or two before it is considered a full set. Such was the case last night, as the audience was given a performance of every track on “Royal Blood” and even with that, two B-sides, “Hole” and “You Want Me.” All these tracks had plenty of time to come in without any kind of time crunch. In fact, the whole show, including the set by the tamer but equally unique, multi-stylized opening band, Kan Wakan, ran with an efficient smoothness that could spoil a spectator waiting around for set changes at any other venue. It was about the music and that’s that. 



 LA band, Kan Wakan, offering up otherworldly songs with a symphonic touch

LA band, Kan Wakan, offering up otherworldly songs with a symphonic touch

Gratitude and a few calls for revved up excitement were certainly strewn throughout but, other than that, everyone involved was focused on just setting up, counting off and playing passionately through; not hanging onto filler dialogue. Approaching a live show this way might feel like a shortcoming to some but in a lot of ways, it instead can translate to mean that the music is strong enough to hold audience attention and that everyone just wants to hear the next song rather than a personal anecdote.


That’s not to say Kerr and Thatcher did not know how to keep things interesting.


Ben Thatcher out for an audience supported stroll...

Ben Thatcher out for an audience supported stroll…

 Pulling what could very well be called a “Matt Shultz move,” (Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant is known for routinely incorporating a stage dive and or audience walk at shows,) near the tip end of the set, Thatcher stood up from his kit, walked over to the edge of the stage and casually stepped up, into the audience — not stage diving but, indeed being held up by the fans and even rotating to let everyone see him. Capping that up-close and personal interaction with a traditional flood of hands and arms reaching out to the stage (the perks of no barrier or burly security line) while Kerr knelt down, whaling out power chords on his bass with a fuzzed and fierce fervor that shot straight into nearby arms and legs, firmly ensured that no one would return home thinking they heard less than what Royal Blood’s compounded record, formal press and social media hype had set them up to expect.


You can keep up with Royal Blood via their official website, as well as find them on these social media outlets:



You can check out more about Royal Blood’s tour mates, Kan Wakan, on their official website, as well as these social media outlets:

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