It’s the dawn of an anniversary battalion for the British rock and indie scene, welcoming a throng more as the turn of the new year transitions to 2024. Comfortably marching amongst the hordes is Royal Blood’s self-titled debut; a packed offering of gritty affected bass riffs, heavy percussion and production, a template which would set a precedent for the Worthing duo’s signature style for the subsequent decade.
Vigorously churning the carousel for the merits of rock revivalism, the alternative/hard rock duo have made a name for themselves amongst genre fanatics far and wide. During their BBC Radio 1 performance this year in Dundee, though, frontman Mike Kerr’s discourse with a seemingly unenthusiastic audience stirred controversy. “Well, I guess I should introduce ourselves seeing as no one actually knows who we are,” he addressed. “We’re called Royal Blood and this is rock music. Who likes rock music?” At the sold out Eventim Apollo show in Hammersmith however, it would appear that the antithesis holds true. The night grants listeners a celebration of the band’s successes and strengths, revelling in the joy and power that Royal Blood’s sound is capable of delivering, though simultaneously shining a light on their shortcomings.
Royal Blood thrive in homeostasis; with a setlist riddled with the band’s best-known, their sound and formula is somewhat one-dimensional, but nevertheless works. Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ swells in Spaghetti-Western glory as the two-piece jolt into action, taking positions before a long strip of butter yellow lighting. You perhaps wouldn’t be remiss for thinking a duo would have difficulty in commanding with only a drum kit and a lead instrument of an octave pedal attached to a bass, but for Royal Blood this ability courses through their veins with tenacity. Hammersmith Apollo’s intimate dome proves to offer the perfect residency for the band’s distorted vocals and bass riffs, which fire into the auditorium throughout the next couple of hours in resilient and restless fashion as a flurry of butter yellow lights aggressively flash from the backdrop.
Teetering between explorative rigidity and unwavering branding, the set list undoubtedly struggles with novelty in its thematics and songwriting style, as unfortunately does Kerr’s vocal diversity. For the Apollo’s audience however, this does not impede proceedings. Royal Blood’s rule governs with incessant vigour, grit and reliably anthemic soundscapes. Time has gifted hits such as ‘Come On Over’, ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Out Of The Black’ a wash of distinctive frenzy and elation, ten years adding further layers of polish to the band’s live performance. ‘Shiner In The Dark’ breaks a halfway point in the set, the track from their fourth and latest record ‘Back To The Water Below’ smoothly translating and serving their discography and setlist with a lick of fresh paint, but once again it does not veer from the stable status quo.
The encore brings the night to a close with a welcomed change of pace and tone with near-ballad ‘Waves’, immediately followed by ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’. There’s a wholesome sense of completion and accomplishment in Royal Blood’s performance, it feels like a full-circle moment witnessing the band continue to hone their showmanship and live production. ‘Figure It Out’ provides the punctuation mark to the end of their set; a night of modern homages to old school classic rock staples, thick bass riffs and swathes of distortion. The single’s chunky riff takes a final breath and stutters to a staccato halt; a resonant crescendo for a set steeped in lavish, gritty euphoria.
Words: Maddy Smith