The bond that Kings of Leon has with the Netherlands is remarkable to say the least. In 2009, the Americans refused to play an encore in Ahoy after being pelted with beer. At Pinkpop 2017, people mainly kept quiet on stage – at festival shows before that time, people mainly grumbled. Moreover, there was bad luck: when a concert with Snow Patrol was announced in the Zuiderpark in The Hague, corona struck. That does something with the connection between audience and band. So it is possible that Kings Of Leon will play its first fully-fledged Dutch show since Ziggo Dome in 2014 (!), on an ‘extra evening Bospop’. Would there be a storm because the damage has to be made up? Or is there no interest?
Photography Hub Dautzenberg
The answer is immediately visible when you enter the site through the festival gate: no, it’s not a stupid walk. And that’s not so crazy. The offer is currently so huge, with the Stones and Idles in Amsterdam alone, that festival goers have to make choices – and for many, the choice clearly did not fall on a Weert evening on Thursday evening. Tens of thousands of visitors can accommodate tens of thousands of visitors on this site, a large lawn next to the A2, but only between ten/twelve thousand visitors eventually see how Kings Of Leon after shows by Stereophonics (roaring rock show) and Balthazar (merry casual in the daylight, a snack for the band) takes the stage at 10 p.m.
We, that part of the audience who know the band’s history, look on with a bit of apprehension. How’s the peace of mind of vocalist Caleb Followill in particular? That atmosphere is decisive, he sometimes does not want to feel good about himself. Grown big and rich with hits like Sex On Fire and Use Somebody, but sometimes visibly unhappy with it. That’s how we got to know him. Fortunately, there is good news immediately, it is almost as if you hear Weert immediately heave a sigh of relief. With a thumb in the air he steps onto the shelves, to the sounds of the opener of the last album When You See Yourself (2021)† There is no question of any chagrin. On the contrary. It is as if Caleb then personally presses the accelerator and only releases it after fifteen minutes or three.
Then he takes a white handkerchief, wipes the sweat and says that this is one of the last shows of the current European tour that they have enjoyed so much. In fact, they may never have had as much fun as they did this summer. And that they would like to experience that pleasure again tonight. And oh, may we be cold, out in the open like that? And yes, that we can really sing beautifully. Anyone who knows the history will have their ears clattering. Concerts are interactions between act and audience: the chemistry immediately skips tonight. In Weert they spontaneously huddle on each other’s shoulders. Fists in the air, arms around friends’ shoulders, singing for the loudest.
We then see for an hour and a half how the band members also visit each other and how they regularly make the stage small, simply by standing together and actually looking at each other, with glances of pleasure. That’s quite a lot for a band whose band members once arrived at Pinkpop in separate Mercedes. The fun seemed gone then, but now it’s back. Meanwhile, we are urged to clap along, to sing along, and when we do so, again eagerly and loudly, we are rewarded with compliments and grimaces.
The setlist is now great, the balance seems to be completely found between old and new work. The Bucket and Molly’s Chambers sound just as great as Closer and Revelry† Speaking of that last song: such a compelling rock song, in the open air, under a beautiful cloud cover, while the evening falls, suddenly feels completely at home here in Weert. That applies to more songs: out of the sight of the Dutch masses, the band has also written a series of very strong rock songs in recent years.
What the band can do nothing about, but from which we are now reaping the benefits: the completely relaxed atmosphere on the site. That is not even a quarter full, but just about everything is open and running at full speed. Zero queues at the bar, plenty of food choices, cheerful conviviality at the merchandise: ‘Would you like to try some on? You can.’ You rarely hear something like that at shows of this format. Bospop’s sympathy also radiates on this evening, which, like the festival itself, is made possible by a whole army of cheerful volunteers.
At the same time, the arrival of Kings of Leon also makes things serious. The stage is really bathed in light, when the evening falls it is more of a picture to the eye with every song. The sound is great, the visuals are beautiful. Nothing has been skimped on here, we get the top of the bill served. All that technique is great, but the atmosphere is the most important in the end. And it stays good. We had forgotten it a bit, but what an oeuvre this band has. And what a voice Caleb has. He calls his own voice ‘a little shot’, after a lot of shows this summer, but it is hardly noticeable. You can really enjoy it for an hour and a half from its ancient American grater.
It is also a bit as if the band has visited a therapist in recent years. And that they’ve been told: guys, have fun. Show gratitude, immerse yourself in the moment. That it was completely broken years ago Use Somebody suddenly comes out of the toes again, sung with eyes closed, emotionally screamed along by ten thousand of us, is telling. Here and now that song suddenly gets a new Dutch life. And suddenly it is striking again how strong that rock song is. Nothing rushed or hated by the band itself: performed in the right way, this song is a song that every rock band can envy. And with which you can fill meadows like this.
For example, the story of Kings of Leon with more than twenty songs played flamingly gets an unexpectedly cheerful new chapter, and one that suddenly leaves you wanting more. What an unexpectedly blissful revenge this is. For a few years there were doubts, but in this form the band can also handle the mainstage of Pinkpop again.
Seen: July 7, 2022 in Weert
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