Kings of Leon, the Black Keys Blast Bonnaroo’s Backyard

Bonnaroo should presumably be a time to kick back and enjoy the finer things in life: the summer sun, a quality brew, the convenience of 80-something performers in your immediate backyard. The last thing this festival needs is enough drama to induce a heart attack. But with their newfound grace, model-faced charm, and entirely dependable rockitude, Kings of Leon seemed fit to facilitate such crises – and yesterday afternoon (June 15), the Followill Family had no choice. The Kings’ headlining set and first performance at the main What Stage was a rollercoaster for both the band and audience members. From the crowd bursting through the Centeroo gates to the threatening rain showers above, it was a set like any other, drawing heavily from the revelatory new album, Because of the Times. Then — the power blows.

Halfway through “Razz,” the speakers fuse out, nearly stopping the set entirely. Then through the clouds burst a glimmer of sunshine as baby brother Jared Followill’s bass again blasted through the field, and his cohorts were somehow coaxed back onstage. In the epitome of a strong finish, the incident brought another level of fury to the remainder of the show as songs such as “Pistol of Fire,” “McFearless,” and set-closer “Trani” were more passionate than ever (as evidenced by Caleb Followill’s slamming of a mic stand on the stage at the song’s end). Slow night — hardly. So long — sadly.

A nap, dust storm, and self-organized Centeroo parade later, another kind of explosion was taking place across the way when the Black Keys made their highly anticipated Bonnaroo return. Fans were literally blown away by the Ohio duo’s dive-bar/blues-band duality as the greater half of the crowd stood a safe distance from the confines of That Tent. A current frontrunner’s for Bonnaroo’s loudest band, the down-home duo’s combination of Southern blues swagger and Midwest blue-collar zeal had fans happily grooving into the sunset. SAMANTHA PROMISLOFF


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