Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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MUSIC REVIEW: The Kings of Leon reign with songs of the South

Though the swarms of teens lined up at the Aragon Sunday may have tousled their hair and donned skinny ties for the Strokes, it was the Kings of Leon who ruled the night’s early hours. Playing for a mere 30 minutes, the Kings strutted, sauntered and headbanged through track after juicy track from their debut LP Youth and Young Manhood.

Hailed as the leaders of Southern garage rock, the band — brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared, and first cousin Matthew Followill — has been dubbed the Strokes of the South. But despite a Southern upbringing spanning from Tennessee to Oklahoma, and an occasional dabble in raw guitar solos, the band exceeds this vague description. Traces of Tom Petty and Lou Reed exist in the band’s sound, and the Followills have apparently stolen the Allman Brothers’ wardrobe and fashion sense, but the group’s Southern garage fusion is unbelievably fresh.

While the Kings sing about whiskey, guns and trains, the band fails to sound derived or cliche. Just as the Strokes take pot shots at New York cops and chugging beer, the brothers sing about what they know: frustration, jealousy and drinking. And while other bands might come off as less-than-authentic in their tales of Southern living, the Kings’ words ring true. Angst lingers in the lyrics, but the band manages to produce well-thought, musically mature songs rather than youthful rants.

The offspring of a United Pentecostal evangelist preacher, the brothers have inherited religious theatrics from their humble roots. Like James Brown and Aretha Franklin, the Kings can’t help but incorporate the soul of the Gospel into their performances. Under beaming white lights, amid high-pitched lyrics and rhythm guitars, it felt like God was in the house and the Kings had seen the light.

Opening with Youth’s first track “Red Morning Light,” lead singer Caleb immediately adopted a rock ‘n’ roll swagger, having taken obvious pointers from Jagger. Caleb’s drawling vocal range could cut glass over brother Jared’s rich and chunky bass lines. Squirming in his impossibly tight white jeans, Caleb shifted from a soft alto into a prepubescent tantrum of screechy vocals, his wispy bangs bobbing with each squeal.

The gender-bending “Happy Alone” was not only the evening’s highlight, but also the most quintessential Kings track. Opening with a swinging, twangy guitar intro, Caleb quickly broke into his signature whine. In what is sure to become a neo-glam anthem he wailed, “I’ll be prancin’ around in my high heels, and your cherry red lipstick.”

The Kings ended with “Trani,” a Southern- tinged rock ode in the vein of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” Swapping a weepy rhythm guitar for the crude riffs of the Velvets, the Kings created a hook sleepier and more morose than Loaded’s signature track. As the song heightened to a guitar-clashing climax, the Kings headbanged in possessed unison, making true believers out of even the hippest Strokes fans.

Indeed, while New York’s finest got the brunt of the applause at the night’s show, one can predict a rash of teens swapping their sport coats and skinny ties for Creedence shags and skinny bell-bottoms if the Kings continue to play like this. A-

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
MUSIC REVIEW: The Kings of Leon reign with songs of the South