With the queues to get in wrapping around the building by 6pm, the popularity of Royal Blood was clear as they were about to headline their biggest gig to date.
The show was opened by four piece Black Honey, bringing their indie vibe to the stage with a stomp of the FX pedals and awesome guitar sounds to match the beautiful vocals of Izzy on lead vocals and guitar. A fantastic Tarantino-esq sound rears its glorious head in their penultimate song; Izzy’s ethereal voice under the spot light met with gentle guitar picking is brutally hammered with thrashing guitars, drums and screams making for a sound worthy of Kill Bill. These guys are certainly one to watch out for.
It somehow felt like the audience weren’t quite prepared for At the Drive In. They took their places on stage, Cedric preparing himself with maracas front centre, with the sound building they finally LAUNCHED into action and just kept on going. The bass heavy on your chest, Cedric went wild on stage throwing himself off amps, launching the mike stand, beating into the floor with a precise fury to match the mayhem the band threw out of their instruments. Though the crowd were unable to match the sheer gusto At the Drive In delivered, it was without doubt they were well received.
But it was clear from the thick sea of people that had now filled the floor that Royal Blood were the ones everyone wanted to see. The lights dipped, the bass throbbed, and the room, as if caught unaware, immediately burst into life. From within a red laser cage they belted Lights Out and secured an instant win around the stadium. A universal mosh was brought on by Come On Over with the audience bouncing around and singing the lyrics back to Mike Kerr. The two piece were joined by a pair of hip-swinging backing vocalists for I Only Lie When I Love You as the set changed to pink and white and a whole lot of booty was flung.
As a two piece giving all they have for each song, there were moments during the set where they had to rearrange instruments or take a second to catch a breath, and without that additional third or fourth person it may have felt a little staggered, but the screams of adoration from the crowd showed that they were loving it and prepared to wait if it meant they would get more. Never more so than with Look Like You Know, and hurling from dousing their brows on an already soaked towel to hammering into the tune, the crowd loved it. Mike made full use of the catwalk that jutted out from the stage that had lain in wait pensively for the much awaited headliners, allowing the crowd a 360 view of his spectacular orange bass.
They gave huge thanks to Black Honey who had took to their seats (just in front of me!) to watch the boys, and were still in disbelief that they were being supported by At The Drive In. It was clear from their words and performance that they were thrilled and overwhelmed with how far they have come. Big hit Little Monster got the whole arena clapping and singing, truly lapping up every beat and this is where Ben Thatcher brought out the big guns. If the crowd wanted more, he blumin well gave it. A drum solo like no other. When half of the band is the drums and he goes for a solo, you realise this is a masterpiece on its own. A standing ovation was given for this superb display, but the song wasn’t even done- they came back together to bring the song back down and the crowd went wild for it.
Mike didn’t disappoint during Hook, Line and Sinker with some freestyle bass play showing off his musical genius. Blood Hands seemed to have exhausted them both, but perhaps they were just succumbing to the realisation of their biggest gig yet. Mike took a minute to thank the fans for all the support, and to take stock of just what it means to them. It’s a special night for Royal Blood and everyone in the Birmingham Arena.
With the lights dripping behind him, Mike bleeds out Hole in Your Heart from the front of the catwalk. As the set builds, the place shakes and the floor swells. The crowd hungry for more, and with the floor still jumping they scream for an encore from the pair. They reappear and bring the perfect track, Ten Tonne Skeleton.
With not a word Mike takes to the end of the catwalk and by just a raise of his hand evokes a ‘shout off’ from each side of the stadium, noise erupting with the mere raise of his arm, then a crescendo of noise and light and the whole house explodes for Out Of the Black, the final tune of the night, and a celebratory smashing up of the drum kit.
A killer ending to a brilliant show. Two guys with a bass and a drum kit can certainly take down an arena. Come back soon.
Reviewer: Ceri Osborne
Photo: John Dent