|Royal Blood at Altar Bar 12.3.14. All photos (c) PMR.|
When Jimmy Page praises a band, you take notice.
After seeing Royal Blood in May, Page said this about the Brighton drum and bass duo:
"I went to hear them in New York. They were fantastic. Absolutely riveting. They're such fine musicians. However long the set was, I could have heard twice as much. Their album has taken the genre up a serious few notches. It's so refreshing to hear, because they play with the spirit of the things that have preceded them, but you can hear they're going to take rock into a new realm – if they're not already doing that. It's music of tremendous quality."
Pittsburgh got a taste on Wednesday, but that was it, only a taste.
Royal Blood took the stage shortly after 9, drummer Ben Thatcher wearing a Pirates hat and bassist Mike Kerr wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. They wasted no time launching into songs from their self-titled album, mostly because that's all they have, one album.
I don't know much about pedalboards, but Kerr keeps his top secret. All I know is that his bass sounds like a bass sometimes, and like a guitar others. The set was eleven songs long, including all ten from the album and one B-side, “You Want Me.” Despite the brevity, Kerr used 5 different bass throughout the set, which helped to vary the band's sound beyond what you'd expect from a simple drum and bass combo.
The first few songs sounded like a heavier Black Keys. (The Stones reinvented blues so there's precedent for another British band to do the same, right?) Then came “Little Monster,” a #1 hit in the UK that saw Kerr crooning like Josh Homme and playing to the stacks of Fenders behind him. Toward the end it was more metal than rock, a shade below JEFF the Brotherhood.
For the last song, Thatcher jumped up on top of the amps and Kerr hopped the barricade to perform in the crowd. The set – which Page hinted at – wasn't more than 45 minutes long. Which is a shame, because the crowd was really starting to get into it; I expected people to start to crowd surf at any moment. But what a performance it was. I hate to say it, but I don't expect to see them back in Pittsburgh again for a long, long time. If at all.
One other thing: Everyone knows that Brits sound American when they sing, but when it came time for crowd banter I couldn't understand a word of what was said. I'm pretty sure Kerr asked if everyone was having a good time, and said that he was glad to be in Pittsburgh. In fact, I think he said he had never even heard of Pittsburgh before they arrived. But take that all with a heavy grain of salt. The fact that Kerr drank at least half a bottle of Jack during the set probably didn't help.
Here are some photos of the performance:
-- B. Conway