When Kings of Leon brought their 2007 album “Because of the Times” to a sold-out show at The Moore, I remarked at the time that it was probably the biggest the band was going to get. Friday night, headlining at KeyArena, the largest room in the city, they made me out to be only half a liar.
Yes, touring behind their sixth album, “Mechanical Bull,” Kings of Leon has become one of the biggest bands in the country, but at Friday night’s listless show, they felt smaller than they ever did in clubs. It was an uninspired theater show with a big screen.
Their ambition on stage did not match the hubris of their recent albums. And as they went through the motions, you got the feeling they were playing as if they had nothing to prove, which felt like entitlement and boredom rather than than self-confidence and inventiveness.
It was telling that opening act Local Natives — not yet an arena band in their own right, and still figuring out how to transfer their percussion-filled rock onto a big stage — appeared to be making more of an attempt to win over the crowd than the band that followed them.
KOL was at their best when they were leaning into older numbers from the band’s fuzzier days. “Bucket,” perhaps the best song the band’s ever recorded, managed to fill the room; “Molly’s Chambers” was cranked up to a crowd-pleasing roar; and the band’s ambivalence couldn’t suck all the oxygen out of the arena-rock call to arms, “Black Thumbnail.”
These songs were reminders of the band’s songwriting chops but also of the evening’s wasted opportunities. Fans come to Friday night arena rock shows to party. And this show never reached a scream.
Before KOL took the stage, I asked Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney, seated a few seats away, about the divisiveness of the band. He chortled at the idea, replying matter of factly: “They’re a good band.”
Indeed. One that’s proven time and again that they’re better than what they brought to KeyArena on Friday night.
Chris Kornelis is a Seattle-based writer and editor.