Royal Blood at Stage AE: How can two people make so much noise?


Mike Kerr, lead vocalist and bassist of the British rock group, Royal Blood, performs at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE May 31. (Photo by Jane Millard | Staff Photographer)

By Sarah Connor, Culture Editor

Two men from Brighton, England, stood on the indoor stage at Stage AE in Pittsburgh’s North Side on the evening of May 31. One of them had a broken foot and the other couldn’t move from the stool he was sitting on.

But these two people managed to get a crowd of hundreds of people jumping, screaming and singing —  bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher, who together make up the Brit Award-winning rock group Royal Blood.

Kerr — who doubles as the band’s lead vocalist — broke his foot in an on-stage accident while performing at the Boston Calling festival May 26.

Kerr left a statement on Royal Blood’s social media promising fans that he will finish out the summer tour after the serious injury.

“The X-ray revealed that I have fractured my metatarsal which has left me fairly debilitated as a result. Despite the injury I have decided to continue with the upcoming shows,” he said. “I am doing everything within my super powers to make this work but regrettably I will not be dancing on stage for while.”

But the lack of dance moves didn’t seem to harm the band’s performance at Stage AE last week. After an exciting set from the opening act, Turbowolf — another U.K.-based hard rock band — the two men of Royal Blood made a modest entrance to the stage.

Thatcher led the way dressed in all black, from his snapback hat to his shoes, and walked toward his drum set. Kerr hobbled behind his bandmate to the microphone at center stage. The bassist had swapped his medical boot for a pair of stylish skinny jeans and Vans sneakers.

Without any introduction, Thacher took his usual seat at his drum set — elevated at the corner of the stage — and Kerr picked up his signature custom-made orange Fender bass. The pair held nothing back as they opened the show with a hit single called “Figure It Out” from their 2014 self-titled debut album.

Two more songs went by before Kerr addressed the crowd. The third song of the show was the band’s first single from their most recent album, 2017’s “How Did We Get So Dark?” After the song “Lights Out” — a spectacle of hard guitar riffs and vocals to show off Kerr’s extensive vocal range — Kerr took a much-needed breath.

“My foot is fucking broken, so you guys are going to have to do the dancing for me today,” Kerr said through a thick British accent, eliciting a roar of excited screams from the packed standing-room-only audience.

The most impressive part of Royal Blood’s live performance was the simplicity of it all. One bassist and one drummer was all the pair needed to create enough energy to leave the fans at Stage AE in awe. There was no rhythm guitar or lead guitar, just the four-stringed bass.

Kerr utilizes multiple amplifiers and a short-scale bass guitar to create Royal Blood’s signature hard rock sound and classic rock-inspired riffs. When most people hear Royal Blood for the first time, they often comment on the strong lead guitar sound — not even knowing it’s a bass.

Though Kerr’s unusual method of playing the bass guitar is fascinating, it does not outshine the exceptional drum skills of Thatcher. He unleashed an intense drum solo mid-way through the show during the song “Little Monster,” and Kerr limped off stage so all eyes could be on his bandmate.

At this point in the show, the audience took Kerr’s request to dance very seriously. The crowds’ dance moves ranged from jumping to head-banging, and by the end of the song, crowd surfing made an appearance in the center of the audience.

Since most Royal Blood songs are relatively short — clocking in at fewer than three and a half minutes — the pair managed to play through the majority of the songs off their two albums. Including a two-song encore, Kerr and Thatcher had played 16 songs out of the 20 featured on “How Did We Get So Dark?” and “Royal Blood.”

After the two left the stage, the crowd still wanted more. Dozens of fans chanted the band’s name, calling them back on stage. After a minute or two, the musicians gave in and resumed their positions on stage with Kerr wobbling his way across the floor once again.

The encore brought two of the band’s most popular songs. Starting with the title song of their second album, “How Did We Get So Dark,” the pair of musicians then excited their fans as they played their last song, one of their first hits — “Out Of The Black.”

Not a single audience member was standing still as both musicians extended the ending of the song, showing off their musical stamina. It is rare to see two people command a stage and stimulate so much excitement in a rock performance, especially when they have to remain in the same spot.

Royal Blood lets their music speak for itself during shows without any gimmicks. Their commitment to the music is clear on stage — there are no pyrotechnics, crazy lighting tricks or background dancers to make their set more engaging. All it took to get the audience excited was two musicians, a bass, a microphone and a drum set.

A tweet from BBC Radio One in May 2017 sums up the whole experience of attending a Royal Blood concert well — “How can two people make so much noise?!?!”