As part of their ‘intimate’ warm-up tour pre main stage, near-headline slots at Reading and Leeds festival, Royal Blood played six comparatively tiny venues up and down the country, including Southampton’s O2 Guildhall, supported by none other than Underscore Part 3 favourites The Mysterines, as well as the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets on select dates.
For reference, Royal Blood’s last UK tour included three sold-out nights at the inimitable Alexandra Palace in London, with a capacity of 10,000; the O2 Guildhall, in comparison, has a maximum standing capacity of 1,749 (with maybe two hundred seats in the balcony), making this gig a special one indeed.
“[The Mysterines are] somewhere between punk, garage-rock, and ballsy, cathartic angst, but that’s barely breaking the surface.”
First up in the re-purposed walls of what was once a town hall were The Mysterines, a three piece hailing from Liverpool. It would be a disservice to even attempt to classify their sound as a band; somewhere between punk, garage-rock, and ballsy, cathartic angst, but that’s barely breaking the surface; a logical opener for Royal Blood.
The trio had an understated entrance; Chrissy Moore nothing more than a mop of blonde hair and George Favager seeming to want to hide his face behind his hair throughout. Spotlights surging from the ceiling illuminated each one, and to begin with they seemed a little shy, perhaps even bewildered, but with the opening notes everything changed…
The group opened with an instrumental intro — with the drums steadily getting louder and louder, faster and faster — before the three broke into one of many unreleased tracks of the night, Keep It Bleedin: a dark affair (think Alice Cooper’s Poison if Alice Cooper was post-punk) though one unfortunately beset by an unfortunate accident with Lia Metcalfe’s guitar; forcing Lia to change guitars midway through. The trio weren’t phased however, breaking straight into Good Conditions: a visceral, unsettling song that flits from shouted vocals to spoken-word-esque sections.
The four songs that had been released the day before were held back until the end of the set, leaving unknown catchy tracks (such as Resistance, with the lyrics “I don’t want to waste your time” — don’t worry, there’s no chance of that anytime soon) early in the set which was the beauty of it. The energy and ferocity expelled by the three was reflected by an audience that had likely never heard of the band, let alone would know any of their tracks; to have such control and such an effortless performance when still relatively unknown is staggering.
‘To have such control and such an effortless performance when still relatively unknown is staggering’
The trio ended on recent single ‘Gasoline’, which had the audience exploding into mosh pits, head-banging and ferocious teenage rebellion.
Coming onstage to flashes of various coloured lights streaming across their backdrop — the stylised, black and red ‘Royal Blood’ used on their recent tour posters and merchandise — Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher screamed confidence; Ben in his usual baseball cap and Mike channeled unassuming coolness in a vest and blazer. Full of swagger, Mike strolled across the stage, grinning at the crowd, before picking up his bass and waiting for Ben to take his place at the drums. To open the pair broke into Out Of The Black.
Typically, Out Of The Black is Royal Blood’s final song to end the set, starting with it instead is a very bold choice. Did it payoff? Well, yes and no. It’s an incredibly powerful song, providing a strong opener and setting the scene for the rest of the night; however, losing it as a closer ended up being slightly detrimental as well. Royal Blood continued back to back straight into Loose Change and Lights Out, the lead single of their sophomore album.
‘The epitome of a rock musician, it oozed an endearing arrogance that just served to light the crowd up even more.’
By this point Mike had shrugged off his blazer, taking an outstretched guitar from someone off stage, wiped his face with a towel, took a sip of water, cockily grinned at Ben, stuck his tongue out at his adoring crowd, then burst straight into the descending riff of Come on over. The epitome of a rock musician, it oozed an endearing arrogance that just served to light the crowd up even more.
Straight after was another OG banger in the form of ‘You Can Be So Cruel’, though undoubtedly one of the lesser known ones. Luckily, the crowd still knew every word; screaming along not only to the words, but the riffs as well.
At this point, the duo were joined on stage by gospel singers, whose task it was to add some haunting harmonies to the sempiternal effortlessness that is Royal Blood. With these in tow, the band broke into fan-favourite I Only Lie When I Love You, a song about toxic relationships, and the as of yet unreleased track Boilermaker. Unfortunately, this track seemed to run into a small problem in the form of bass-heavy speakers; much of the song was indiscernible. Still, being treated to a new song in any capacity always feels exclusive and special; Boilermaker was no different. With it being the first new material since 2017’s How Did We Get So Dark, the eager fans lapped it up.
‘It reinforced the idea of Royal Blood — and it’s fanbase — being a family.’
The same spikes of heavy bass persisted throughout Little Monster too, not that it dissuaded the riff-imitating screams from the 2,000 arrayed in front of them.
At this point we were blessed with not only a drum solo from Ben but an especially poignant entrance from Ben’s dad to hit the gong! It reinforced the idea of Royal Blood — and it’s fanbase — being a family.
‘Royal Blood at their best; angry yet polished, and good as hell.’
Returning to the stage the gospel singers supported the duo with backup vocals on How Did We Get So Dark and new tune King which is a heavy, addictive riff over a effectively simple drum beat: “If I could have it all/ I could be the motherfucking King”. Having only heard both new tracks live it is hard to be certain but it feels King may be the stronger of the pair.
Hole In Your Heart, a slightly more ballad-esque track, if such a thing can be said about Royal Blood. Gospel singers; Mike on keyboard; a slow, almost contemplative drum beat. The chorus remained Royal Blood at their best; angry yet polished, and good as hell.
During Blood Hands Ben fashioned a cape out of his towel, as you do. A modern day hero for people sick of stereotypical pop music! Despite the comedy superhero skit Mike showed his honest thoughts in this introspective moment.”It’s moments like that where I realise how fucking lucky we are to have fans like you. We’ve been playing for six years and where we wrote these songs is a house my friends lived in, in a small room, and you think you’re only going to play it to your friends, and then some insane shit happens like this and we’re living the dream.” Perhaps clichéd but no less emotive and no less honest, and it reflects a band who despite their successes still remember where they came from.
After the inevitable cheering let up, remarking ‘this the heaviest riff of all time’, the duo broke into the usual-set-opened Hook Line and Sinker. A debatable claim to make, in terms of their own catalogue — let alone other bands — but an amazing song anyway.
The pair took a rather novel approach to the stereotypical end into encore, with the pair stepping at the side of the stage for Mike to shrug at the crowd and mouth ‘we’re sorry’ and Ben to climb the amps and speakers to pose. However, despite this well-deserved showboating, the crowd were slow to react once the stage had been vacated. Were they an audience suffering from the heat and lack of ventilation in the venue? One grown privy to fake ends that more often than enough lead to an almost sad creep back on stage? Or one just tired of screaming along? Well, judging from the final two songs it couldn’t be the last comment: once Ben had come back on stage, leading the crowd in a progressively faster clap beat to seemingly entice Mike back on stage, and the band had broken into Where Are You Now (a song first featured on the HBO soundtrack to ‘ Vinyl’) the crowd were screaming along just as before.
An extended intro enabled Ben to lead a clap, exclaiming to his legions before him “we know you’re out there. We see you. It’s a Friday night in Southampton Guildhall and all the best people in Southampton are gathered together. SOUTHAMPTON! ARE YOU READY TO PARTY?!” A call to signify the chance to burn up the last vestiges of energy that anyone in the crowd had left. One last burnout.Obviously, though, one last burnout wouldn’t count for anything if it didn’t feature Mike’s dad on a trumpet solo!
After finishing, and just before bowing, the show was dedicated to their parents. The one problem that is now the pressure placed on the rest of us!…
…How do we top honouring our parents with a 2,000-capacity gig?
The Mysterines Played:
Keep It Bleedin
Love’s Not Enough
Who’s Ur Girl
Bet Your Pretty Face
Royal Blood played:
Out Of The Black
Come On Over
You Can Be So Cruel
I Only Lie When I Love You
How Did We Get So Dark?
Hole In Your Heart
Hook, Line & Sinker
Ten Tonne Skeleton
Where Are You Now?
Figure It Out