What happened to the Kings of Leon? For that matter, what happened to Secret Machines? When did these little rock bands that I’ve been going to see for years turn into fucking rock and roll masters? I was a bit wary to see both KOL and Secret Machines in Roseland, but god damn if the Machines didn’t convince me within their abbreviated opening slot that they are not only ready to play rooms that big, but now they deserve it. When I think about Secret Machines live I immediately go back to a party they played last year at Rothko and the air conditioning broke. It was so packed and hot in there that the keyboard was sweating and you could actually see the air swirling around their blue and white photo lamps they use for stage lighting, but being that close to Brandon Curtis when his voice reached that patented scream and Josh Garza beating the shit out of his drum kit elevated the sweaty show to one of my favorite of the year.
Last night had less intimacy and overwhelming heat, but the sound and energy level confirmed that this is a band to be reckoned with. The highlights of the show came with the hits from Now Here Is Nowhere; “Nowhere Again”, and “Road Leads Where It’s Led” had the packed audience head-bobbing and dancing along. The real victory moment for Secret Machines came with final jam “First Wave Intact”. Brandon alternated between bass and keys, Josh killed his kit, but the real ‘oh my god they’re rock stars’ moment came when Ben Curtis, standing and dancing in between these two seated mad men, hit the ground while ripping up his guitar. When he stood he was perfectly back-lit and the light broke around him making him appear to be in the center of a star. The three men of Secret Machines had the crowd in their hands and left the stage in a wall of feedback with the packed assembly salivating for more.
A good 30-minutes-plus later, the crowd was hit with another massive wall of sound - the strains of “Lacrymosa” from Mozart’s Requiem as the Followill’s took the stage, launching right into “Molly’s Chambers”. What’s most striking about the current incarnation of the Kings of Leon is that these boys have learned how to occupy a stage as intimidating as Roseland’s. Since the shows in support of their first EP Holy Roller Novocaine to last night’s performance, I’ve seen KOL play Mercury Lounge to Madison Square Garden and while they always sound amazing live - from Caleb’s voice to Matthew’s guitar solos to Nathan’s backing vocals and drumming perfectly locked into Jared’s bass lines - the fellas would stay fairly stationary until the raging closer “Trani”, but those days are gone. Last night, Caleb prowled the stage, interacting with his band mates and the audience, Jared has perfected the bass player head bang, and every time I caught Nathan blowing a chewing gum bubble while he was pounding his drums, I marveled that he never got any in his hair.
This review shows me for the sucker that I am for appropriately timed guitar-player drops to the knees, but when Matthew hit the floor during set highlight “Spiral Staircase”, I shook my head in amazement. You gotta love a moment when the rock is so overwhelming you have to take a knee. Last night was a strange show for me because it forced the realization that gone are the days when I’ll easily be able to see these bands I love in intimate venues. My little bands are all grown up.