An exuberating night of rock music at the Portsmouth Guildhall began with the LA trio, Mini Mansions. I imagine most of the crowd may have recognised the bassist Michael Shuman from his Queens of the Stone Age fame and as one of the most frequently quoted influences for Royal Blood, this pairing makes a lot of sense. Their quirky style of electro/psychedelic pop was unexpected at first, but seeing Shuman on the bass guitar made them a perfect fit to support the main act. Soaring harmonies and ordered chaotic noise made up Mini Mansions set, and similarly to Royal Blood, it is impressive to hear the racket they make with just the three of them on stage. They performed songs such as ‘Death Is A Girl’ and a personal favourite of mine, the exceptionally weird (in a good way), ‘Creep’. Keep your eyes peeled as I expect to see a lot more of these in the coming year, and being the only support act for Royal Blood is a pretty decent step in the right direction.
Starting at nine o’clock on the dot, the two lads from Brighton that make up Royal Blood took to the stage at the Portsmouth Guildhall to greet the crowd on this sold-out show. Surrounded by an array of lights and amps you would think that the two of them would have been swamped on stage, especially in a venue the size of Portsmouth Guildhall. However, they had enough of a presence that they filled the stage and then some. It is still baffling how two people can exude so much sound, but more impressively, how they can create such an atmosphere that will soon be transferred to stadium heights, and rightly so.
Royal Blood performed track after track, each sending the crowd into a hyped-up frenzy. The precision in their set meant that Kerr and Thatcher had everyone in the venue in the palm of their hands; for example the delay between songs – while Kerr swapped guitar – left the crowd teetering on the edge, waiting for them to drop in with another raucous banger. ‘Loose Change’ and the track that started it all, ‘Out Of The Black’, were personal favourites, each performed with a crystal clarity that shows how much performing live means to the band. Mosh pits shifted the crowd from left to right with shoes flying over head and beers being spontaneously thrusted into the air. This is how rock music should be appreciated. With an album just shy of 33 minutes long, Royal Blood included a cover in their set of T-Rex’s “20th Century Boy” which made for a perfectly fitting addition to their fast-paced set.
What impressed me the most about Royal Blood’s live set is how attuned each band member is to the other. Drummers often get quoted as the methodical time-keeper of a band, however, Thatcher blows these stereotypes out of the water. Throwing his entire body weight into his art, he smashed the drum kit to pieces, even to the point of standing towards the end of the set before losing cymbals and pieces of kit left, right and centre in their especially raucous finale jam. The pair are fascinating to watch, simply down to the chemistry between them. What is also very endearing is that even at this point in their careers, Thatcher ends the set with a trademark visit to see the crowd. So many times throughout the set he was stood on top of something casually sipping a pint and taking in the crowd’s doting cheers before jumping back onto the kit. They’re definitely not going to tire of this kind of reception any time soon.
From the first note to the the last, Royal Blood took the crowd in Portsmouth on a whirlwind adventure through their number one debut album – the fastest selling British rock album of the past three years – never once stopping to catch their breath, but only to quickly change over guitars. This record is by far the most concise thing to have been released in quite some time, but this epitomises what Royal Blood are all about. There is no excess, just the absolute necessities. They are breaking the mould by stripping back the fat of stadium-sized rock music, a prime example of this is that they didn’t come back for an encore. They gave the crowd what they wanted (and more), left it at that and exited the stage with the feedback from Mike’s bass guitar still whirring around the venue.