Review: Kings of Leon could use some animation

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 7, 2014 - 5:50 AM

Review: Show lacked excitement or any kind of emotion.

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Caleb Followill was front and center with Kings of Leon at the half-full Target Center on Thursday, but he barely moved while on stage.

Photo: Leslie Plesser , Star Tribune

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Kings of Leon are the modern-day Eagles.

OK, that sounds preposterous at first blush. Kings of Leon haven’t produced a blockbuster album or any works that are likely to land them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But both bands seem to be governed by egos and economics, which is what happens when you get big in the rock world.

Intramural bickering has been a hallmark of the Eagles as well as Kings of Leon, which consists of three sons of a preacher and their cousin. And the egos and economics dictate that once a big band, well, then you always have to think of yourself as a big band. Never mind that Kings of Leon have released two modest selling albums since 2008’s “Only By the Night” propelled them to three Grammys, two huge hit songs and a sold-out arena tour.

So three years after lead singer Caleb Followill walked offstage in the middle of a concert in Dallas, Kings of Leon played to a half-full Target Center on Thursday night. And, like the Eagles last year in front of a full house at the same venue, Kings of Leon sounded pristine — just like their albums. But, like the Eagles, they had all the stage presence of the animatronic band at Chuck E. Cheese.

If you’re going to play in an arena, at least act like you want to be there. Arenas are show business; theaters and clubs are for artistes and shoegazers. People want showmanship in arenas — unless the performers are named Pink Floyd, Rush, Tom Petty or the Eagles.

Followill, 32, stood front and center, electric guitar strapped on, barely moving. Sometimes he bounced a bit on his toes or contorted his face into a rock ’n’ roll grimace. But, judging by his body language, you couldn’t tell if he was having any fun.

To be sure, he muttered a few times about how much fun they were having and how this crowd was better than the one the previous night. All of his emotions were revealed in the music and that keening voice of his, which suggested Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz trying to be Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Except when Followill slipped to his upper register, such as on the power ballad “Tonight” and the rocking “Black Thumbnail,” when he sounded like Steve Winwood.

Much of the night, the musicians stood in dim lights, their faces barely discernible unless they were featured in occasional close-ups on the giant video screen. Even though Followill talked about how expensive the screen was, the displays weren’t nearly as exciting as the ones Kings of Leon used in 2009 at Target Center when a screen wrapped around the rigging over the stage and provided quick-changing images that gave the show energy that the statue-like musicians didn’t.

On Thursday, guitarist Matthew Followill, 29, like the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, moved to the music and even tried to engage cousin Caleb in guitar jams. But there is no room for jamming in a Kings of Leon show. The Nashville quartet’s arrangements are as tight as their jeans, which are the tightest this side of Dwight Yoakam’s. And their sound is made for an arena — a bracing mix of Southern rock spirit, punkish drive and U2 uplift.

The 1¾-hour set was filled with tunes from 2013’s “Mechanical Bull” CD but backloaded with hits. For the signature “Use Somebody,” Caleb asked the 7,000 fans to sing the first chorus but he could have used another 7,000 somebodies — and one iota of animation.

 

Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719

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