Live Report: Kings Of Leon – BST Hyde Park

A summer spectacular with the Followills...

It was all nearly so different. For a moment there, the prospect of going to see Kings Of Leon headlining BST Hyde Park on Sunday night seemed like it might follow a sad, crushing defeat of England in their last-16 clash at Euro 2024, as Slovakia led the first half of the game with an early goal. It would have made it hard work for the Followill family band, having to rally a brokenhearted audience through what probably would have felt like rather a long evening.

Fortunately, however, thanks to Jude Bellingham’s overhead equaliser and Harry Kane’s triumphant extra time header, the stage was set for an almighty celebration, and who better to host the party than Tennessee’s reigning Kings.

Arriving on site immediately after all the surrounding pubs emptied and the already-full voiced revellers spilled into the park, there was just enough time to stock up on liquid refreshments before the decidedly eager headliners promptly appeared to kickstart the festivities.

Seven years on from their last appearance here in London’s magnificent 350-acre green space, and it’s an energised Kings Of Leon that take the stage. Their latest album, ‘Can We Please Have Fun’, is both a reaffirming mantra for the now-veteran Southern rockers, and a forceful sonic accomplishment that promised an awesome live delivery. 

As if to demonstrate their renewed sense of purpose, the night began with that album’s soaring opener, ‘Ballerina Radio’. A confident statement of intent, the atmospheric introduction quickly built up to its full flow, and paved the way for a dynamic 29-song set that was built to thrill, seamlessly stuffing in greatest hits alongside deeper cuts and fresh new favourites.

Although not specifically designed to be performed in such vastness, the Kings’ earliest tracks – composed amid the great garage rock revival of the ’00s – are not out of place amid the more ambitious and developed numbers that came with the group’s own maturation. The now-20-year-old bangers ‘The Bucket’ and ‘Taper Jean Girl’ are detonated without delay, but sound every bit as powerful and punchy as the punky headrush that is this year’s ‘Nothing To Do’.

Inevitably but gleefully we reach the group’s most abiding anthem. Choosing to drop ‘Sex On Fire’ so soon into the evening perhaps freed the group of the anticipation they no doubt feel in such huge and diverse gatherings as this. It’s met with a roar of approval, and suddenly Central London is resonating to the sound of over 65,000 voices in unison.

With that out of the way, the group settle into the night, and invest themselves heavily in a performance that aims to fill every inch of the park. There is little dialogue between the songs, ensuring the music speaks for itself. As a result, the musicians look focused, robust and, more than anything else, radiantly happy. “It’s such a joy to be here,” beams lead singer Caleb after the appropriately named ‘Comeback Story’. “It’s one of my favourite places to be, and be a part of.”

To the right of Caleb, younger brother Jared is super cool – leading man handsome, handling the bass with deft aplomb, and not afraid to pull some exemplary rock star faces. Over on stage left is cousin Matthew, his searing guitar riffs, soaked in reverb, the secret weapon in the group’s stadium sound. Sitting at the back, with the best seat in the house to watch this whole extravaganza unfold is oldest brother, Nathan, furiously hammering the drums and drenching his commemorative new England team shirt in well-earned sweat.

Together they throw out the tunes like hand grenades. Recent single ‘Mustang’ hits hard, then there’s an electrifying triple whammy of the classic ‘Molly’s Chambers’, ‘Milk’, and ‘Fans’. ‘Split Screen’ confirms itself as an emotional highlight of ‘Can We Please Have Fun’, before the thumping ‘Closer’ gives way to ‘Seen’ – the new album’s slow-burning impassioned finale a bold choice of song to close the main set.

When the band return for an encore, they pick up where they left off with the propulsive new ‘Rainbow Ball’. The crowd greet it like an old familiar friend. While last night at Glastonbury was a spectacle of lasers and pyrotechnics for those in the field for Coldplay, there is little need for such embellishments here with Kings Of Leon when the music is taken so seriously by those present.

The group have truly grown into a force to be reckoned with. This new chapter in their ongoing story suits them well. They pour themselves into the music, forsake any showmanship, and constantly deliver beyond the expectations of the audience. There are so many ways they could have finished the night, but the epic widescreen ballad ‘Cold Desert’ – closing track of 2008’s ‘Only By The Night’ – was not only a profound surprise as the penultimate number, but a wholly inspired choice in this nighttime urban oasis. The same can be said for ‘Use Somebody’, which closed proceedings, and left the crowd singing as they snaked out towards home.

Delightfully self-assured and more compelling than ever, the Kings Of Leon live experience is a solid, bracing affair, and one that today proved the perfect chaser to the beer-soaked football sesh prior. The band consider London their second home, and we’re proud to have shown them such a warm welcome in our prized park. Back of the net.

Words: CC Baxter
Photography: Liz Gander

Set List

  1. Ballerina Radio
  2. On Call
  3. The Bucket
  4. Taper Jean Girl
  5. Manhattan
  6. Revelry
  7. Nothing To Do
  8. My Party
  9. Sex On Fire
  10. Don’t Stop The Bleeding
  11. Comeback Story
  12. Pyro
  13. Mustang
  14. Molly’s Chambers
  15. Milk
  16. Fans
  17. Back Down South
  18. Nowhere To Run
  19. King Of The Rodeo
  20. Wait For Me
  21. Split Screen
  22. The Bandit
  23. Find Me
  24. Closer
  25. Seen

(Encore)

  1. Rainbow Ball
  2. Waste A Moment
  3. Cold Desert
  4. Use Somebody
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