Kings of Leon singer Caleb Followill performs Tuesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills. (Adam Graham / Detroit News)
Kings of Leon is a straight down the middle rock and roll band, and 2014 is an odd time for straight down the middle rock and roll. As such, the band’s concert Tuesday night at the Palace — a tightly packed two-hour, 27-song showcase — played to a lower bowl-only crowd with the upper deck entirely curtained off.
Still, the show was a muscular, high-end production that saw the four-piece outfit, augmented by one additional member, charging through hits and album tracks from throughout its six album career. Lasers shot throughout the arena during the three song encore, and an impressive video display backed the band all night long. It was a big time arena rock show. So where was everybody?
To be fair, it seemed like Kings of Leon might never make it to the Palace. After imploding on stage during a 2011 concert, the band went on hiatus and it looked like its days were numbered. When the group re-emerged at a series of festival concerts last year, it came as a surprise, as did the band’s 2013 album “Mechanical Bull.” The fact that “Mechanical Bull” was such a sturdy set of songs came as even more of a surprise.
Yet in a pop-dominated landscape and with the band five years past the peak it marked with dual smashes “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody,” “Mechanical Bull” didn’t make much of an impact. So while the band had graduated to Palace-level at its peak, it was a stretch to play the venue this time around.
The band packed enough production to justify the space, however, and this outing is its most ambitious tour to date. Kings of Leon are never going to be the type of guys to fly around the arena on wires or play behind walls of flames; it’s tough enough to get lead singer Caleb Followill to leave the four foot space around his microphone stand. But with some impressive camera work — boom cameras captured the band’s on-stage action from cool angles and gave the performance a cinematic feel — and a variety of images on the video screens, from neon lights to videos of classic pin-up models to close-ups of flowers, the visuals lent an added punch to the show.
The setlist focused on songs from “Mechanical Bull,” with a ripping mid-show “Supersoaker” and a late version of the galloping ballad “Beautiful War” among the standouts. (Side note: No “Comeback Story?” What gives?) The band dipped into all eras of its career, and the show’s most magical moment came as a snowstorm of foamy soap rained down from the arena rafters during “Only by the Night’s” “Cold Desert.”
The band charged ahead all night with a workmanlike focus, and following encore versions of “Crawl” and “Black Thumbnail,” both punched up by a sizeable laser display, it closed the show with “Sex on Fire.” The song may have burned hotter in 2008, but it was a potent closer and it showed that after enduring a difficult period, Kings of Leon are rock solid.