Royal Blood rock the O2 Academy Bristol in their first date since the pandemic started.
Oh great, there it is, the ‘P’ word. When it comes to live music, it’s going to be a while before we can escape its grasp, and bless them, the Brighton duo couldn’t quite escape it either. 15 minutes into their raucous, euphoric set, they had to take a brief pause just to take in the fact they were on stage once again.
It cut right to the heart of just what it means to be back in a sweaty room with blaring guitars. For a band who’s music is best enjoyed at speaker-breaking volumes, it’s warming to be reminded that they’re very much human too; they’ve missed this as much as the fans have.
Wednesday night was a lot of firsts for me. The first live music I’d seen since a Warehouse Project night in December 2019. My first ever gig in Bristol, and my first at an O2 Academy. And, quite to my shame, my first time seeing Royal Blood. It’s only taken me 7 years.
“Being in a crowd without masks was enough of a sensation, so just to be in the room with them on stage meant it took me a while to believe this was actually happening at all.”
Tigercub warmed up the crowd whilst my mate and I waited for drinks at the bar. A fellow Brighton band, their shiny shirts and long hair added a great splash of old school camp to their drudgy, rollicking sound. Being in a crowd without masks was enough of a sensation, so just to be in the room with them on stage meant it took me a while to believe this was actually happening at all.
I was impressed at the setup the Academy opted for, using the NHS Covid Pass (this is not an advertisement, just to be clear) to ensure everyone had had a negative test prior. It was the reassurance needed to properly enjoy yourself, and the relief at having another negative test the next day has proven its value undoubtedly.
There’s a brief flurry of excitement whilst waiting for RB’s set to start as the stage hands reveal Ben Thatcher’s 6 foot high gong sitting behind his drum kit, followed by a singalong to Brianstorm as it plays on the speakers. To say I’ve missed this would be an understatement.
And then, they’re on stage. Cue 90 minutes of non-stop energy, dolling out the best tracks from all three of their albums in furious fashion. Mike Kerr rocks a petrol blue shirt and remains committed to only ever being seen in skinny jeans; Thatcher opts for his usual snapback and tee combo.
“Mike Kerr rocks a petrol blue shirt and remains committed to only ever being seen in skinny jeans; Thatcher opts for his usual snapback and tee combo.”
Much as I love just how much bands can elevate a song when they perform it live compared to the studio recording, what works so well about Royal Blood is the total lack of distinction between those two. It’s one of the benefits of being a two piece, though it was welcoming to see them joined by backing singers and a keyboardist for some of the dancier cuts from their new record, Typhoons.
The mosh pit, at one point extending right across the room, was filled with sweaty t-shirts and fanny packs. If there’s one thing that has changed since we’ve waited for live music to start again, it’s what men are doing with their hair. Mullets, mustaches and curtains (for which I proudly wave the flag); let me tell you, I am very happy to be part of whatever this era of fashion will come to be known.
RB round off their gig with ‘Figure It Out’ – as if they couldn’t – which takes me straight back to hearing it for the first time in summer 2014. Their self-titled debut will forever be one of my favourite records, an album that seemingly turned the standards for Alternative Rock in the 2010s on their head. That same energy felt alive on stage, and seeing the duo so happy to be back was priceless. 7 years and a pandemic was more than worth the wait.
Royal Blood with Tigercub, O2 Academy Bristol, 21st July 2021