Bass/drums duo Royal Blood make an almighty sound for a twosome, and they have a Jimmy Page endorsement to show for it. At a time when rock combos have not been favoured by a conservative industry, they make good economic news – both their albums to date have topped the UK charts.
Royal Blood/At The Drive-in, Glasgow Hydro ***
The White Stripes paved the way for this two-(wo)man army sound 15 years ago with a thrilling but potent economy, and The Black Keys added the funk. Now Royal Blood have cleaned up with all the right riffs and none of the personality, edge or charisma associated with their influences – be it the sludge rock of Black Sabbath, with frontman Mike Kerr imitating Ozzy Osborne’s baleful howl on Where Are You Now? or the downtuned nu-metal guitars coupled with the proggy arpeggios and glam rock stomp of Muse, who appear to be a primary blueprint. This was rock mostly without the roll, therefore vastly improved when they added a groove on the bluesy, Stripes-indebted Figure It Out.
The Brighton band compensated for a lack of natural presence with a few performance frills. Two backing singers provided a degree of slinky swagger on I Only Lie When I Love You. There was great excitement at Ben Thatcher’s old school drum solo embellished with copious cowbell.
At one point, it looked like he might have added fire-eating to his skill set, as he brandished a torch for unknown kicks. Kerr even orchestrated some pantomime rivalry between opposite sides of the auditorium.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad way to introduce a new generation to the face-melting powers of loud rock music, even if too cleanly presented.
They might want to take showmanship notes from special guests At the Drive-In who gave a stadium-proportioned performance in trying acoustic circumstances. Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala executed a gymnastic repertoire of jumps, flicks and tricks with the mike lead, leapt on to the amp stacks and made occasional incursions on to Royal Blood’s walkway but at a certain point chose to cut his losses and perform into the drumkit.
They are a band best enjoyed in venues where you can see the mania in their eyes. One suspects they would attack the opportunity to headline arenas in their own right but would need a sound mix which favoured their incendiary mix of metal, hardcore and gothic punk rather than reduce it to a tinnitus-inducing soupy din.