Kings Of Leon at V Festival 2013 review

'A thumping set that clearly has the autopilot switched off'

Photographer:Shirlaine Forrest

Chris Eustace - 19 August 2013

9:20 on the dot and, perhaps mindful of last night's impatient crowd, Kings Of Leon are onstage, and straight into 'Supersoaker'. The first taster from new album 'Mechanical Bull', it's a shame in many ways that it's the only new song they play tonight: its' summery growl wouldn't sound out of place on 'Because Of The Times', their last great album, and it would have been good to see if they are keeping that standard up. It's understandable that they might not want to annoy the "play us something we know" crowd though - on the eve of release, good publicity is like gold dust, so perhaps in a way the best promotion for the new record is not to play too much from it tonight.

Luckily, there's plenty of other signs that the Kings have rediscovered some of their mojo, the way they tear into 'The Bucket', or the way the searing guitar in the bleepy space-rock of 'Closer' sends the whole thing stratospheric. One thing hasn't changed from when KOL were that weird band of backwoodsmen with strange facial hair - they remain defiantly undemonstrative live.

As we get 7 songs in, to an effervescent 'Fans', Caleb Followill hasn't said much to us bar "Thank you very much, we're Kings Of Leon", and later on, before 'On Call', he even mock-complains "They want me to talk to y'all for a second, but I don't know what to say." In the end, the best gambit he can think of is "You guys hot?", shruggingly smirking "that's all I got." You could say that he's never going to be a "Put your hands in the air!" Type, but then he asks just that during 'Knocked Up''s yelping coda, getting everyone's arms swaying in unison.

Ok, so witty stage banter isn't what's got KOL this far - a frantic 'Holy Roller Novocaine', a biting 'Pyro' and a rollicking 'Four Kicks' show what has. Another reason for optimism is that, finally, someone appears to have told the band that they've been playing 'Molly's Chambers' at half-speed for the last 6 years or so. With that rectified, it's back to being a highlight in a set still full of strong songs. Only the workmanlike stadium chug of 'Cold Desert' really fails to hit the mark tonight in fact, as the main set closes with 'Use Somebody', and a thousand dodgy X Factor cover versions are washed away.

Obviously now no longer fearful of any Beyonce-style boos, they take a little while to return, but when they do, it's for a soaring 'Radioactive', always far more impressive live than on record and here leaning slightly heavier on its gospel influences with the high-pitched "ooo"s coming to the fore. Alarm bells ring among the more clued-up Kings fans as a bruising version of traditional set-closer 'Black Thumbnail' is next - they're not really going to leave without playing 'Sex On Fire', are they? Nope, they've just switched it to the final song, and as that chorus starts up, it's with an air of a band who are finally enjoying playing it. Whether 'Mechanical Bull' can live up to this show remains to be seen, but live at least, it looks like KOL have turned the autopilot off.

Check out our full V Festival 2013 coverage here.

Remember to follow Virtual Festivals on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest festival news.


Related Artists

Hide Search Results

Festival Search


All Festival Tickets