My first thought was "Really? The Kings of Leon can fill the ACC?" Well, they came damned close. Only this past November they filled the 2,500 capacity Kool Haus in Toronto and five months later they're headlining the Air Canada Centre (19,000 capacity). What happened in those five months? "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" happened--songs built for arenas full of singing & screaming fans. Mind you they haven't been an overnight success. The Kings Of Leon have built a huge and loyal following since their 2003 debut but the success of "Only By The Night" (Released on September 23rd, 2008 and on the Billboard charts for 29 weeks- currently sitting at #31) has pushed them past the tipping point. The unique part of this show was seeing that they might not be ready for the next level of stadium stardom.
This was the first headlining band that I've ever seen with such a minimal stage setup: no walkways, ramps or props. Their guitars - only one each (except for Caleb who plays electric and acoustic) - were tuned by the musician using them and placed in guitar stands beside them when they weren't using them. Dressed in the same clothes they'd go out to the mall in, they've either decided to forgo the rock star chic that you'd see the Killers preening in, or they don't know that those clothes are needed for a stadium level band. They're not playing signature guitars, using signature drum sticks, striking "Bon Jovi" poses at predetermined points in a song or going off on a political rant to work the crowd into a frenzy. All of these things that they didn't do were so refreshing. The Followill boys simply play great music without an agenda.
You'd think that a band with some huge singles would save one for the encore, but instead "Sex on Fire" fell midway through the show, followed closely by "Milk", "Four Kicks" (which sounded amazing) and "The Bucket". The show started with "Crawl" and "Use Somebody" came just before the encore. For the encore the crowd was treated to a new bluesy song "Devil's Song", mixed in with "Closer", "Manhattan", & "Knocked Up" . The band, especially Caleb, seemed to loosen up once they dug into their older rougher material, and all of the material was performed flawlessly. Nothing about their sound is studio polish - they just sound amazing.
It'll be interesting to see where their success takes them. Caleb has described the material for their next CD to have a "bluesy feel" that I'd think long time fans would feel comfortable with but newer fans expecting more "Sex On Fire" style songs might not receive as easily. Their success has come from talented and daring songwriting and whatever comes next will surely be fantastic. WIll they start to enhance their shows with more lights, bigger stages and bigger personas like other stadium level bands? I hope not. Seeing one of the best bands of this decade playing a giant venue with a minimal setup and a non-rock star attitude was an unforgettable experience.