Standing nonchalantly on a speaker stack, tipping back a pint of lager and expectantly soaking in the adulation, Ben Thatcher might be the coolest man in rock.
As his sole bandmate frantically tears and shreds a crossfire hurricane of noise from his bass, summoning a typhoon of brimstone blues, Thatcher – as casually menacing as his surname suggests – steps down into the photo pit to stare the front row in the eyes, then, in his own good time, clambers back to his drum stool, picks up his sticks and hammers out the ack-ack tattoo of Out Of The Black as though he’s beating all those NHS-pilfering Tories back into hell. At the crushing final chord he picks up his stool, flings it at the backdrop and saunters off, hands in pockets. Another night, another Academy duly destroyed.
What’s made Brighton’s Royal Blood the gnashing Guevaras of the UK rock revival isn’t just that they’ve pumped the modern blues of the White Stripes and the Black Keys with adrenalin drawn from the throbbing deltoids of Josh Homme, it’s also how goddamn easy they make it look. Mike Kerr, RB’s swarthy, dark-eyed stallion of a frontman, is famed for his mysterious ability to get the sound of an entire Download out of a single bass guitar – often from just one string. Reaching Academy level on the back of their 10-track Number One debut album, they manage a full hour tonight without the thrown-in B-sides and extended feedback interludes ever sounding remotely like padding. Royal Blood make chart-conquering, globe-straddling 21st-century Britrock look like the most natural thing in the world; they’re a cocky, hard-rocking embarrassment to any fool who ever stood laughing over guitar music’s premature grave.
Royal Blood are leading the new charge thanks to their effective simplicity; anything as dumb and inpenetrable as modern mainstream chart culture needs a blunt, weighty instrument to crack. So their formula hits hard – striding on stage glaring fire at the audience, they strike with B-side Hole, a chugging Zep juggernaut driven by an elastic riff, with Kerr yowling about being ‘stuck in a hole’. It’s a prowling bigfoot of a tune that builds to a violent final attack with Thatcher pounding volcanic rumbles from his kit and Kerr conjuring a gigantic noise.
And so they continue; primal music tackling primeval themes. On Come On Over, Kerr bellows: ‘There’s no God and I don’t really care’ with all the atheistic abandon of the young and horny, over a song built to soundtrack murderous goings on in midnight canyons. Little Monster has him stalking some unsuspecting prey like a rapey werewolf, drawling: ‘I’m gonna love you no matter what you say/I got love on my fingers, lust on my tongue.’ Gore flows freely through the violently ruptured romances of Blood Hands and Ten Tonne Skeleton – ‘She took my heart, left me for dead and drank my blood,’ Kerr growls over the military beats and guitar scree. God, sex, death and revenge – if their moniker makes two chunky rock kids from Brighton sound like an Oedipal chorus, then their imagery makes Kerr’s girl troubles sound Biblical in scope and import. It’s Royal Blood’s modus operandi: relentlessly spewing out music that’s way bigger, louder and more powerful than the scant sum of their parts. And tonight is their gruesome coronation.