Kings of Leon, St James’ Park Newcastle

THE last time I saw the Kings of Leon, they played to an enthusiastic, but relatively small-scale crowd at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle.

Fast-forward more years than I care to remember and the US rockers were back in the city, but this time as a fully-fledged stadium band.

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Tens of thousands of fans packed into St James’ Park on Saturday to see Caleb Followill and the rest of the clan on what was a perfect night to showcase their anthemic sound.

Their arrival on stage may have been low key, but there was nothing low key about opener Supersoaker and the crowd – many of whom had been in the stadium since 5pm – were soon bouncing along rhythmically.

They continued with tracks from albums Because Of The Times, Aha Shake Heartbreak and Come Around Sundown, Followill never less than heartfelt in his vocal delivery.

Not normally a band for sharing anecdotes with their audience, the Tennessee outfit prefer, instead, to give their fans what they came to hear, track after track from their burgeoning back catalogue.

With that in mind, it is perhaps telling that the brooding frontman took time to acknowledge the enthusiasm of the crowd and could even joke about a minor issue with the sound.

That sound can suffer in vast arenas such as St James’ and it was certainly true on this occasion for those like us at the back, with the lyrics of some songs only completely audible to those completely familiar with them.

In truth, this had little impact on the enjoyment of a performance that was accompanied by a fantastic light and graphics show.

The set was well balanced, with slower, more atmospheric songs, complemented by full-on rock numbers.

With the sun having set and darkness beginning to shroud the stadium, but the songs kept coming.

Pyro, Tonight, Four Kicks and Knocked up were among those received with cheers and applause to rival any noise more commonly associated with those gathered on a Saturday afternoon.

The crowd knew that the final strains of Use Somebody did not mark the end of the evening and their demands were duly met with an encore consisting of Crawl, Black Thumbnail and the inevitable Sex On Fire, a song you feel they play because they have to and not necessarily because they want to.

Regardless, it was a fitting way to end a night that - pardon the pun - cemented Kings of Leon place among rock royalty.