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Kings of Leon tries to keep things challenging

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The past year has been a bit of a fresh start for Kings of Leon.

The Nashville-based rock group went through a crisis during the summer of 2011, after the Grammy Award-winning group played a ramshackle show in Dallas during which frontman Caleb Followill slurred his words, rambled incoherently between songs and left the stage to, he said, vomit and then drink some beer. A few says later the rest of he tour was canceled, and laster that year the quartet announced it was going on hiatus.

KoL came back strong, however. The group returned to the stage, successfully, during the summer of 2013, before releasing its sixth album, "Mechanical Bull," in late September. The 11-song set debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 was the group's fourth consecutive No. 1 album in the U.K., KoL's longtime stronghold. It also launched the Top 10 rock hit, "Supersoaker" and brought the group back on the road this year.

But Caleb Followill -- the middle of three brothers who comprise Kings of Leon along with a cousin,-- says the comeback angle is a bit overstated.

"That was other people, people watching from outside, not us," says Followill, 32. "I think every album is a fresh start for me. You live with the critics and your fans and everyone comparing everything you've ever done, and it usually ends up with people saying your early work is your best work.

"So you try to go in there and change their minds and do something special. It's always a fresh start. Every time I pick up a guitar or the guys pick up their instruments we start to write a new song, it's us trying to do something that's gonna make us feel good and something we've never done before."

And, he adds, motivation is seldom a problem.

"I think there's something inside of us that drives us," Followill explains. "We come from a very competitive family, and so for me every time I see a young band and I hear a song that I think is really good, there's a part of me that gets a little angry. It's like, 'S***, We should've written that song!'

"So that motivates me to keep going and always try to get better at what it is we're doing."

KoL has been doing it since 1999, when Caleb, Jared and Nathan Followill -- songs of a traveling United Pentecostal Church preacher -- joined forces with cousin Matthew Followill. A debut EP, "Holy Roller Novocaine," preceded the "Youth and Young Manhood" album in 2003, and hard touring led to a growing audience in the U.K. and Europe before the U.S. caught up for 2008's double-platinum "Only By Night" and its hits "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody."

KoL's musical goals for "Mechanical Bull," meanwhile, dovetailed with a desire for a bigger live presentation this year. The group's arena shows earlier in the year featured extensive video production on a huge rear-stage screen, lasers and other effects, and those ambitions are no less modest for this summer's outdoor shows.

"At this point I'm just really excited to go out and step up our game and try to compete with all forms of music as far as our show goes," Followill says. "It's not about being a rock 'n' roll band anymore; nowadays all types of music have sort of morphed into one. So for me, the same way people talk about a pop act and how they left their show and, 'Wow, it was amazing! The music matched the look' and everything, that's the kind of stuff I'm excited about.

"So we want to put a focus on just making our life show better and also continue to grow as a band. It's not all about the party for me anymore," he says, adding with a chuckle, "At least not this week. We'll see what it's like next week..."

89X Birthday Bash with Kings of Leon, Young The Giant, Kongos, Ashes of Soma

7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1

DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township

Tickets are $69.50 and $39.50 pavilion, $29.50 lawn with an $89 four-pack

Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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