Friday, October 15, 2010

Kings of Leon - "Come Around Sundown"

It’s hard to believe it has been two years already since Kings of Leon’s highly successful breakout album, “Only By the Night,” was released. Songs from that album are still reverberating all over radio. Now brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared, along with cousin Matthew, are releasing “Come Around Sundown” — their fifth studio album. I think one question on everyone’s mind is: Can it compare to 2008’s commercial juggernaut? Well, I am lucky enough to have heard the new album already… and I have the answer: Who cares?

The album is a strong and unyielding endeavor. If you’re looking for the “Use Somebody” Kings that shot to uber-stardom with their last album, you might be a bit disappointed. Parts of it are there, but it’s very understated and I don’t want to make comparisons because they sound different with each progressing album. This is one of those bands that I love to see explore new sounds because they can do so much experimentation and still sound incredible.

The album kicks off with “The End.” With a transcendent bass line, the brooding song has almost a Killers(-ish) sound to it. The first single off the album, “Radioactive,” is a thrashy, riotous number with a fuzzy guitar sound, complete with falsetto backup vocals.The backing falsetto continues on “Mary,” a song that holds a steady beat as Caleb pledges, “No I won’t, never once, make you cry / Just to kiss, how I’ll miss your goodbye.”

Several songs pay homage to the band’s home state of Tennessee. “The Face” suggests, “If you give up New York, I’ll give you Tennessee, the only place to be.” The tribute to their roots continues with the southern anthem, “Back Down South.” With a country tinge and a hint of steel guitar, it’s a mesmerizing song, highlighted by Caleb’s lackadaisical singing. The juxtaposition works great. While on the surface, they are singing about the south, upon closer examination of the lyrics, the song could also simply be construed as another “Sex On Fire,” as the descriptive imagery suggests. I love the double meaning behind their words!

“Birthday” is a good-time drinking song all about taking someone home and “Fallin’ and laughin’ at the drinks we spilled / Just one of those nights that I had to share.” As for “Mi Amigo,” I have a hard time trying to figure out if he’s being literal or if what he’s singing about is symbolic of something else. It’s hard to tell, but it’s a fun song, nonetheless. The album closes with “Pickup Truck,” an intensely passionate track that alludes to getting caught having an affair.

Lead singer Caleb Followill’s soulful, raspy voice echoes through the entire album and if you’re a longtime Kings fan, you’ll notice “Come Around Sundown” evokes some elements of their earlier albums, “Aha Shake Heartbreak” and “Because of the Times.” Still, this album also propels them forward into a new realm. It’s a little more subdued than strident, focusing more on the laid-back, meandering musicianship and thought-provoking words. It’s a solid effort and a great album to listen to whether you’re at the gym, on a road trip or if you just want to unwind.

Paramore/Tegan and Sara concert

Me w/ Tegan and Sara (or Sara and Tegan if we're going from left to right)

Pop rock, chick rock, punk-pop rock, alternative rock… however you want to categorize Paramore, the operative word here is: rock. And what I witnessed at the Honda Center in Anaheim this past Sunday was a genuine rock show in every sense of the word. These guys really know how to put on an entertaining concert — full of energy, pyrotechnics, and even a little head banging. But I’ll get to that in a minute…

The Anaheim show was the very last night of the 2010 Honda Civic Tour. Kicking off the night in this four-band event was Kadawatha, who was then followed by New Found Glory. As an old school NFG fan, I was pleasantly surprised and glad to see that they’re still touring and going strong as a band. Their set was short but memorable and even included their cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” and they surprised the crowd by bringing out Paramore’s Hayley Williams for their song “Vegas.”

After New Found Glory, one of my all-time favorite musical acts, Tegan and Sara, took the stage. This was my sixth time seeing them in concert and I truly never tire of seeing them. Usually, their music comes across much better in a smaller, more intimate venue, but they sounded GREAT in the arena! It just so happened to be the twin sisters’ 30th birthday and they celebrated it with perfection as they opened their set with “Living Room,” leading straight into “I Bet It Stung,” followed by “The Con.” When they started playing “Walking With a Ghost,” things took a comical turn when people dressed in sheets came out on stage as ghosts and started dancing around.

After performing more of their old favorites, like “So Jealous” and “Where Does the Good Go?” the twins played some stuff off their current album, “Sainthood.” Meanwhile, I was loving every minute of it because this arena was filled with nearly 15,000 screaming fans waiting to see Paramore and those who hadn’t heard of Tegan and Sara before were getting a lesson in how great they really are. Of course, many were there to see Tegan and Sara as well, but I think it’s safe to say these girls will now have a lot more fans thanks to this tour. After closing yet another fun and perfectly executed set with “Hop A Plane,” the ladies left the stage following an erupting applause.

And now to the main event — I’ve been a fan of Paramore for a couple of years now, but this was my first time seeing them in concert, so needless to say, I was pretty excited to see what was in store. The music started with the band behind a curtain. After only seeing their silhouettes for a few minutes, the curtain finally dropped and they opened with “Ignorance.” I was immediately sucked in. After “No Sympathy,” the band had everyone (including me) singing and dancing along to “That’s What You Get.”

Hayley Williams is the ultimate frontwoman: charismatic, engaging, and fun with a powerhouse voice. Donning a Girl Scout sash, she was full of energy, running around on stage and head banging to a point where I had to question how many Red Bulls she had consumed. This girl must run daily marathons uphill while singing. How else could she have this much energy and be able to sing like that while being so active on stage? But I guess that’s just how talented she and the rest of the band are. They made it very clear how grateful they were to all their fans and made this show worth the fans’ while.

After sending the audience into a frenzy performing “Decode,” the band paid tribute to their roots. Having formed in Tennessee (the country music capital) Hayley busted out a rendition of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man.”

For the acoustic part of their set, Hayley and the boys (lead guitarist Josh Farro, drummer Zac Farro, bass player Jeremy Davis, and rhythm guitarist Taylor York) were sitting on and gathered around a stylish red couch playing their songs campfire-style. During the acoustic portion, they dedicated the song “Overlap” to all their fans and ended with “Misguided Ghosts,” before taking a brief break.

Upon returning, they kept the nonstop energy up and had everyone in the arena on their feet for “Crushcrushcrush” and then slowed things down a bit with their current hit “The Only Exception.” This is where my one complaint about the show comes in (and it had nothing to do with the band at all). This song is the typical “Bic lighter” song where everyone holds up a lighter and sways back and forth, which is great. It’s tradition. Every great band has at least one of these songs. And maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I was bothered by everyone (and I mean everyone) using their cell phones instead of a lighter. Or using their “lighter app” on their iPhone, which is just a poor substitute. It distracted me.

For that matter, I was also distracted by every third person constantly holding up their video cameras throughout the entire show. I find this happening more and more with every concert I attend. Maybe I’m being too picky, but doesn’t it take away from the concert experience by watching the whole show through a tiny screen on your camera? A word of advice to all concert-goers: just take a few pictures and maybe film them singing your favorite song, and then put the technology away and just be in the moment. Be there with your favorite band and experience it with them. The memory of it will be far more effective than a grainy video taken from 200 feet away. It’ll also be less distracting to the people around you. Sorry for the tangent… I just had to vent for a minute.

Now, back to the show. After leaving the stage, the crowd was clamoring for more and Paramore gave us exactly what we wanted. For their encore, they began with “Brick By Boring Brick” and followed that up with their very first hit, “Misery Business,” which is what closed out the night along with sparklers and falling confetti. None of this, however, before making one lucky fan’s entire year by inviting him up on stage to sing with the band. Seeing as how he said he had seen them in concert 21 times and it’s pretty much everyone’s dream to be pulled up on stage by their favorite band, I’m assuming he can cross this off his bucket list and will probably never want for anything again.

It may have been my first time seeing Paramore in concert, but after an explosive and lively show like this, it definitely won’t be my last. Their touring continues overseas in October starting in New Zealand, but I’m hoping they’ll make it back to the states soon.