Live: Kings of Leon/Local Natives
CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION — 4/10/14: Last week at the Woodlands Pavilion was, for me at least, a tale of two bands. It was the best of bands, it was the worst of bands. Well, maybe that’s harsh, but I did come away from the show scratching my head and wondering what all those people saw in Kings of Leon, a band with which I’m not very familiar.
Let’s get the good news out of the way first. Local Natives are tomorrow’s biggest band performing today. I listened to their second album, Hummingbird, dozens of times last year. I bought the special edition vinyl; it made my top five of 2013. They are the reason I spent an hour and a half driving from the southwest side to The Woodlands, and they delivered everything I wanted.
I’ve seen them previously twice — at the House of Blues and at the Austin City Limits Festival, and each time they’ve made me an even bigger fan. I don’t go all the way back to their first album, but in hindsight, I wish I did. My friend and fellow photographer, Jim Bricker, mentioned he saw them at Mango’s several years ago; ooh, that made me jealous, but when you see enough bands, you get to have those “I saw them back before they were famous” stories…
Fleet Foxes at Walter’s… Midlake at The Proletariat… Arcade Fire at Mary Jane’s (didn’t like them, but I was there)… Weezer at The Troubador (now that shows how old I am)… As for this show, it was too bad most of the crowd was out standing in line for beer and didn’t witness the clinic that Local Natives put on. They sing three-part harmonies. They are five talented musicians playing intricate music together. They are everything a band in the 2010s should be (and it seems like a thousand bands are stealing their sound these days). Every song was a highlight, but my favorites were “Breakers,” from Hummingbird, and “Sun Hands,” from their debut, Gorilla Manor.
As a photographer, Kings of Leon lost me right away. They insisted that the photographers all be huddled over on the side of the stage. They said we could switch sides (from far right to far left) between songs, but “between songs” lasted all of three seconds, so the security guard stopped most of us from switching sides. I ended up stage right for all three songs. I’m not familiar with the band, but this requirement led me to think the singer, Caleb Followill, is a prima donna. After a quick web search, apparently I’m not the only one who thinks that
I feel the need to stand up for photographers of the world. We are just as passionate about what we do as the band is. We are there to do a job, as well: to make the band look good. I know a concert photographer isn’t exactly a position of power (why would anyone care about us, anyway?), but someone needs to speak up for photographers. What’s the deal? Would the photographers distract him from playing his E barre chord? I’m not kidding, he played that same shape chord in 4/4 time most of the night…
So, if anyone knows why the photographers couldn’t use the whole pit, please let me know. If photographers don’t speak up about this, it will become the norm. I heard that Arcade Fire did the same thing the night before. Sorry to vent… I tried to take some wide-angle shots so my half-dozen readers could see just how far away I was. After we were done shooting, I went up to my seats again to catch the set. This is the part of the review where I mention The Pavilion’s new big LED screens. Wow! They are amazing!
Upon returning to my seat, I tried to get into their show. Obviously, they must have something good going on, if thousands of fans would pay exorbitant prices to see them play, plus $15 for parking and $10 for a beer. But I came to the conclusion that this is music for people who don’t really love music. They like something that doesn’t challenge them. They like something they can have going on in the background.
I actually do want to say some good things about Kings of Leon, however. Their equipment is beautiful. Caleb’s Gibson 339 is a perfect 10. Matthew Followill has this Fender Jazzmaster that gave me instant guitar lust — same thing with Jared Followill‘s Thunderbird Bass. Plus, later on in the set, they played two rippingly cool songs; those two songs saved the set for me. Turns out those songs, “Molly’s Chambers” and “Four Kicks,” are ten years old. So I did learn something new: apparently I’m a fan of Kings of Leon circa 2004. Enjoy the photos if you can! END
(Photos [top to bottom]: Taylor Rice (Local Natives); Kelcey Ayer (Local Natives); Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon). All photos by Jason Smith.)