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Concert Reviews:
Royal Blood keeps it short but headbanging sweet at Saint Andrews
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- Royal Blood proved that good rock 'n' roll things can come in small packages on Tuesday night, Dec. 2, at Saint Andrews Hall.

The British group is just a duo, and an unconventional one with a lineup of bass and drums, and the show rolled in at a modest 50 minutes and 11 songs. But it still packed the assured power of a bona fide headline caliber set, showing the duo of singer-bassist Mike Kerr and "the rest of the band," drummer Ben Thatcher, make a sound that's much greater than the sum of their parts.

Royal Blood is on a roll thanks to a hit debut album -- No. 1 in their native U.K. -- and hit singles such as "Out of the Black" and "Little Monster." Next year the group will have a coveted spot opening for the Foo Fighters. If that upward trajectory continues it's likely the Saint Andrews show may be the last time for awhile that we see Kerr and Thatcher in such intimate confines, and the black-clad duo certainly made its short time on stage impactful.

The key, of course, is that Kerr is hardly just a bass player. With his effects and chordings, he approaches the instrument more like a guitarist or the keyboardist he was before he picked up the bass, filling Royal Blood's songs with two and sometimes more dimensions of sound, with Thatcher's kick drum holding down the bottom. The songs themselves, meanwhile, drew from the best -- and obvious -- rock sources, with a bit of White Stripes here ("Careless," "Figure It Out"), some grunge there ("Come On Over") and nods to Led Zeppelin ("Ten Tonne Skeleton") and Black Sabbath ("Loose Change").

Kerr has become an even more assured singer than he was back in July, when Royal Blood made its first Detroit appearance at the Shelter downstairs. And he and Thatcher have become more adept at executing the sharp dynamic changes in their arrangements, especially during songs such as "Figure It Out" and "Loose Change," while "Blood Hands" stomped with room-shaking vigor. And "Out of the Black" was a show-ending epic that included a full, manic coda with Kerr, still playing, crowd surfing and Thatcher smashing a cymbal he detached from his drum kit.

Referencing the Shelter stop, Kerr noted "that was crazy too" and added that "if there's another floor here, let's do that next time." Considering Saint Andrews' top level is the much smaller Burns Room, there's fat chance of that; Royal Blood clearly has much bigger things ahead.



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