Rockers The Kings of Leon could deliver one of the greatest midweek gigs in Dubai history when they hit our shores for an eagerly anticipated gig for the Live at Atlantis series. Here, we dissect their ups and downs.
As gigantic arena rock bands go, it is hard to find too many groups bigger than The Kings of Leon. Having toured around the world, sold millions of records, won critical acclaim and fan devotion in all corners, the Tennessee-born rockers have experienced the ups-and-downs of musical superstardom and return to the UAE with genuine rock royalty status.
The band was last spotted on these soils when they performed at the inaugural Abu Dhabi F1 in 2009. Up to that point, their rise had been as meteoric as it was unexpected.
Brothers Caleb, Jared and Nathan Followill, all descendants of grandfather Leon (hence the band’s name), grew up in the most un-rock and roll of environments. Sons of a rural Oklahoma preacher, the brothers spent much of their youth travelling from town-to-town watching their father preach. Home-schooled and without a permanent base for much of their childhood, the Followill brothers were naive to the excesses and temptations of life in a rock and roll band. It was only after their father’s resignation from the church, and his subsequent separation from their mother did the notion of forming a band really take hold.
After ‘kidnapping’ their cousin, Mathew and locking themselves in their mother’s basement, the family of misfit hillbillies began to cause a stir. Their sound, a distinctly fresh indie kick, set to barnstorming Southern bumpkin rawks won the band the UK’s hipster vote and critical praise for albums, Youth and Young Manhood (2003) and Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004).
It was Because of the Times (2007) and Only by the Night (2008), however, which saw the Kings’ invade their homeland’s charts and prepare them for the musical stratosphere. At one time it seemed their greatest hits were obligatory listening on every radio station, party and shopping mall playlist across the planet.
Peaking in exposure with 2008’s double whammy of radio-jammers ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’, and winning two UK Brit Awards for Best International Band and Best International Album a year later, Kings of Leon found every mountain climbed must be tumbled back down.
Amid infighting and disorder, the band pulled the plug midway through their 2011 US tour, going on a formal hiatus. Adding salt to the wound, their fifth LP, 2010’s Come Around Sundown, failed to produce a hit.
But the band once hailed as rock’s saving sons were far from down and out. The Kings may have been dead, but the Kings have since shown they will live long.
They struck back last year with album number six Mechanical Bull, a stripped back return to their roots that picked up largely positive reviews, and they are now gearing up for an epic US and European tour
Musically matured from the freefall of the early albums, the Followills carefully straddle the borderline between radio-friendly unit shifters and credible stadium rock and their legacy seems secure for years to come. After a five-year wait, this outdoor gig promises to be something rather special.
Despite the unusual decision to make this a Wednesday night performance during the working week, the chance to see one of the world’s biggest rock bands should be enough to make most Dubaians put up with the late night and sleepy working conditions the next day.
Kings of Leon Live at Atlantis. Dhs385-600. Wednesday May 28. Atlantis Beach, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah. www.ticketmaster.ae.