Royal Blood supports anniversary rock tour

British band crosses the Atlantic, capturing the attention and affection of thousands in downtown St. Paul.

Royal Blood opened for the Foo Fighters, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary with a world tour. Photo by Paul Patane.

Royal Blood opened for the Foo Fighters, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary with a world tour. Photo by Paul Patane.

Paul Patane, Sports Editor

A microphone, bass guitar and drums. That’s all British hard rockers Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher needed on stage to electrify arena and stadium-sized crowds on a nightly basis when supporting legendary post-grunge band Foo Fighters this summer.

In front of a sold-out crowd of 15,000 concertgoers at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, Kerr and Thatcher put their two man show titled Royal Blood on full display for a rapidly growing American fandom. If their clean and elegant black and white aesthetic didn’t catch the audience’s attention, they were quickly sucked in by the band opening with rapper Jay Z’s “99 Problems” before taking the packed venue on a journey through their first and only smartly-titled studio collection, “Royal Blood.”

Royal Blood members Mike Kerr (vocals, bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums) played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Aug. 22. Photo by Paul Patane.

After leading with “99 Problems,” the group transitioned into a song not on their debut album, “Caught in the Middle.” After the untraditional opening, the duo hit the entirety of their album’s hit songs, including “Come On Over,” “Little Monster” and “Out of the Black.” In addition to the interesting setlist arrangement, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the band made it a habit of regularly mixing up the setlist from concert to concert while touring with the Foo Fighters, a smart live music tactic often neglected by supporting acts with an hour or less to complete their setlist.

Often compared to The Black Keys, Royal Blood has a signature thick bluesy sound packed with Kerr’s meaty riffs that make the comparison a bit unjust. While both groups utilize only two musicians and instruments in studio, The Black Keys have more of a garage rock vibe and add traveling musicians to their live shows. In St. Paul, Kerr’s bass-playing ability was a cut above most accomplished bassists’ skillsets, helping to eliminate any void created by the lack of an electric guitar. Thatcher’s drumming completed the band’s sound, adding depth and richness while complementing the blues and hard rock infusion.

Beyond a full sound, the group filled the Xcel Center’s stage well with a sleek black backdrop that featured their album logo and band name. Thatcher’s drumset sat slightly elevated and not too far from his bandmate so that they could play near each other, while managing not to be piled on top of one another. The bold utilization of so much black shrank the stage optically, allowing audience members a pleasing visual without unnecessary distractions.

Ben Thatcher playing this drums. Photo by Paul Patane.
Ben Thatcher playing the drums. Photo by Paul Patane.

In addition to Foo Fighters, Royal Blood has drawn the eyes and ears of premiums music acts across the western hemisphere, including Arctic Monkeys. The hard rock secret may have come out a little late on this side of the Atlantic, but it’s not too late to hop on the Royal Blood bandwagon. There’s plenty of room in the back, as the rockers are already in the process of developing their second album while they continue to tour this year. In the meantime, the band’s debut collection resumes strong sales in the U.K., having spent an entire year in the Top 75, including a brief stint in the top slot. With such strong sales, Royal Blood has proven they’re here to stay and not simply an overnight sensation, managing to offer something a little unique and refreshing to new listeners willing to give their record a spin.

Royal Blood concluded their portion of the Foo Fighters’ 20th anniversary “Broken Leg” tour on Tuesday, Aug. 25 in Pittsburgh. After a brief stint back in the U.K., they’ll return to the United States in late September. If you missed them at the Xcel Center and are a fan of rock music, do yourself a favor and don’t miss them the next time they come to town with a second album to further enhance future setlists. For more information, check out the band’s website at: