For their sake, it’s too bad the Features opened for the Kings of Leon last Friday; they could handle headlining. For our sake, it was a privilege, albeit a bit embarrassing one, only because the four Nashville boys, Roger Dabbs, Rollum Haas, Matthew Pelham, and Mark Bond danced more than all the two-thousand-plus audience members put together. In addition, they were playing instruments.
The Features play like a mix of the best pop-rock from the sixties through the nineties. Matthew’s lead vocals have the cadence and pronunciation of Tom Petty. His vocal chords sound as if Dave Matthews were singing like Dylan on Nashville Skyline [Columbia]. Rollum plays with the enthusiasm of Ringo Starr on speed. His head bobs, his hair flies, and he has a look on his face that says, “My this sounds fine!” And it does.
Mark adds a retro feel with synthesizers and organs, for example the Doors-inspired “Wooden Heart,” featured on their new CD Contrast. When he’s not banging away at keys, he keeps busy with a tambourine. Roger’s bass playing is enthusiastic and spontaneous, like one of the Talking Heads.
The Features can play the caressing melodies of a peaceful folk-rock band; other times they hit you with straight hard-core, finger-raising AC/DC power chords. “I Will Wander” gives a blatant tip of the hat to one of the most widely sampled songs ever, Chic’s “Good Times.” Matthew amps-up Nile Rodgers’ funky guitar lick and it works. “Guillotine,” a story of sacrifice, is pure melodic punk.
All of the Features follow a formula of more energy equals more energy. They resemble the Muppets’ band in this respect—mops of hair flying in every direction. Additionally, each member of the band has a microphone for vocals.
Though the audience erupted with praise after every song, they still did not dance. To emphasize this point, Rollum nonchalantly spit a mixture of saliva and facial sweat over the drum set at the dance floor. But don’t avoid seeing this band on account of Rollum’s bad habit; he provided a very hard-core moment, and he probably would have spit blood if he had to. It is just as much fun watching these guys play as it was listening. If you ever see them, avoid getting spit on and dance.
For those of you who don’t know the Kings of Leon—get hip. These three brothers and one cousin are the freshest sounding no-bullshit rock band since Nirvana, only they are from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. And they don’t dance—they just play kick ass tunes.
Smoke rolled towards the lights above the stage; the whole joint reeked with anticipation. The Kings strutted on to soft church music, and the audience greeted them with a standing ovation. For an American band that can sell out nine thousand seats in England,
the two thousand-seat Pageant audience was genuinely appreciative for their presence.
The Kings are: Caleb, Matthew, and Jared Followill, and their cousin, Nathan Followill. Together they fell into place, and played “The Bucket,” “Taper Jean Girl,” and the speedy-lyric “King of the Rodeo” from their second CD, Aha Shake HeartBreak [RCA].
Comparisons have been made between Matthew Followill and his obvious lead guitar influence, The Edge. The tight bass and drum between brothers, Jared and Nathan, is comparable to Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. And I guess you can tell that somebody turned them on to the Rolling Stones. The terms Southern rock and Indie rock begin to describe their sound, but it is ultimately defined by Caleb Followill’s wailing. He sounds like he’s dying, but still hitting all the notes. Lots of old guys sing like this, but coming from a twenty-five year old, it’s the hottest shit to hit the pavement.
The Kings are so cool it’s funny. They dressed in black and didn’t smile much. Two of them have that trendy Jared Leto-wrap haircut that black girls used to sport in the early nineties. During the show the black boots of the three guitarists shifted around like six coach roaches in a refrigerator—fidgety, but too cool to really dance. Caleb reminds us throughout the show that, “We’re the Kings of Leon.”
They played plenty of new songs bound to be classics, like “True Love Way,” “On Call,” and “Arizona,” note for note. The only shoddy moments were when the sound tech zonked out Matthew’s lead guitar in key places. So if you enjoy their new CD, Because of the Times [RCA], you will be pleased with the Kings’ live show too, that is, if you don’t expect them to jump all over the place.