photos : the stills, we are scientists, kings of leon
the stills // the paramount // 20 october 2008
But first, though, some quirks of the Paramount. Did you know, for instance that the entire interior is under copyright and that no photographs of it can be made without permission? Or, that for rock shows, the opening band is rarely listed on the ticket and that they start an hour before showtime? I knew the latter and arrived just as the Stills were tuning and a few extremely punctual VIPs were settling into their photopit seats.
And so, in this weird custom, Montreal’s the Stills played a solid set while earlybirds filtered into the gorgeous and gold plated auditorium. Since their sort of famemaking early century Logic Will Break Your Heart, the band has picked up a new lead singer and a shade more darkness and spark to go with their already overcast mood. They seem their most impassioned and attention grabbing in their timely indictment of John McCain, dedicating “Snakecharming the Masses” (from this year’s Oceans Will Rise) to their least favorite grey-haired presidential candidate, sneering audibly through the droning curtains. Though the people dancing in the aisles, encouraged by precise and rolling MMJish guitars enlivening by extra drums, are quickly shuffled away by eager ushers, in the bright spotlights the band sounds unaware of the quashed response and very much in control.
we are scientists // the paramount // 20 october 2008
If the Stills are the brooding serious loners and Kings of Leon are the affable, popular jocks (and because what situation can’t be forced into a high school metaphor), than middle children We Are Scientists are the obvious class clowns who play much better to a small room than a vast auditorium. Cracking jokes between boisterously slung rock, I only regretted that I was seeing them somewhere other than shoulder to shoulder in a place where their many hooks could catch. Sure, there was a guy in the front row who brought his own keyboard and drumstick to show appreciation, but it was hard not to feel bad that everyone else wasn’t cracking up to their jokes about people wandering out to get drinks and their attempts to help people on hot dates seal the deal.
kings of leon // the paramount // 20 october 2008.
The usual Kings of Leon narrative is that they’re wildly more popular in the UK and less adored in these United States. If the devotion on display at the Paramount was any indication, their fortunes have changed or the overseas fanbase is just unbearable. As the hour of their arrival drew nearer, every space in the theater was abuzz with anticipation. Kids swarming around the merch table to swaddle themselves in band shirts before grabbing a seat, smokers hurridly taking their last drag before sealing themselves inside, drinkers crowding around the bars and queuing in the lobbies to grab a cocktail.
I’ve seen Kings of Leon warming up a New Jersey state park for Radiohead and in the searing afternoon sun at Memorial Stadium. Even though the three brothers (and their cousin) were plucked from Tennessee by a big record label at a young age, they are already well-suited to playing to the rafters. Their headlining performance was no exception; throughout I had the feeling that the gilded ceilings were in modest jeopardy from the throbbing bass lines.
The prevailing metaphor for the Kings of Leon and their southern rock is one of heat or fire. And, here the eager crowd (who, if overheard conversations are any indication), unaccustomed to extended periods of standing, were on their feet immediately and constantly, affirms. In tight jeans, fancy white loafers, and a shiny cross, Caleb Followill leads the band through songs teetering on the boundary between incendiary and radio friendly, in a near-constant simmer without boiling out of control. Still, the songs reaming all the while electrifying, tapping into some deep need for foot stomping, dancing in the aisle, and hockey mom chanting from the balcony. Songs like “the Bucket”, with its relatively sedate opening, leaves the first twenty rows trembling in anticipation; Journeyesque “Use Somebody” practically begs for aloft lighters and sing alongs.
My favorite moment among the hit parade is when a guy in a baseball cap and plaid flannel walks out onto the stage to assist Matthew Followill with a cigarette. For a moment, it has the look of a major label perk, until the guy starts dancing and joining in on vocals. Under the hat, I recognize Eddie Vedder, friend and fan of the band and a sure sign of their international fame might finally catch on over here.