The Power of Rock and Roll: Royal Blood at the Roseland Theater

Vortex Music Magazine

With a simple stage setup, English rock duo Royal Blood demonstrated their skill in harnessing the power of rock and putting a focus on the energy of the Portland crowd

Royal Blood knows how to energize a room. The pure heat that sizzles off their records is enough to suggest what sort of crowd behavior may occur when the music is played live. On record, Mike Kerr’s howling vocals and heavy bass guitar riffs play off Ben Thatcher’s booming drum to create a sound with soul and guts. Even so, the shake of the speaker that blasts their sound pales in comparison to the shake of the Roseland when the duo demonstrated their rock skill to the Portland crowd.

Coming in from the sweltering heat of this record-breaking Oregon summer, a nearly sold-out crowd pushed their way to the barricades of the Roseland Theater on August 10. Some wrestled their way to the front, while some found a place on the sidelines in front of the giant fans that kept the room from becoming an oven. Other fans nestled into the center of the crowd, ready to ignite action once the English duo took the stage.

Welles at the Roseland Theater. Photo by John Alcala.Welles at the Roseland Theater. Photo by John Alcala.As more poured in, the Roseland was treated to an opening set from Welles. Welles is Jeh-Sea Wells, a rock musician from Ozark, Arkansas. Accompanied by his band, Welles warmed up the waiting fans with a set that brought flavors of the grunge rock of the 90s to a modern setting. Sporting a flannel and tattered jeans, Welles satisfied the growing itch of the crowd to let loose to the heavy sounds of guitar and drums. Heads in the mass bobbed, hair whipping wildly as it caught the wind of the movement.

After Welles finished his set, stagehands quickly went to work clearing the way for Royal Blood’s display. On stage, a wall of vertical neon bars lit a large amp, a single mic, and Thatcher’s drums elevated on a platform stage left. It was a simple design that left much of the focus on the music and the actions of the crowd throughout the night.

Coming on heavy with “Where Are You Now?,” a cut from their latest record, How Did We Get So Dark?, Royal Blood unleashed their power and transferred their pure energy to the hands of the crowd. Simple head-bobbing and hair-whipping went to waste as the pit opened up and the full sensory experience of a rock concert hit everyone in attendance with a hard swing.

Royal Blood at the Roseland Theater. Photo by John Alcala. Royal Blood at the Roseland Theater. Photo by John Alcala. As Royal Blood unleashed their set, the crowd fed into the energetic sounds of Kerr’s guitar riffs and Thatcher’s heavy drum hits. Half-drunk voices screamed along to Kerr’s vocals, as those near the front stretched their arms over and around surrounding concertgoers in order for the band to see their fists pumping in the air above everyone else's.

As fans jumped, danced and shoved along to the music, the crowd became an ever-moving sea of hands, hair and faces. Some took to riding the wave and surfing the crowd to the front of the room.

The closeness involved in moshing at a rock show means sticky heat. The temperature rises in the middle of the action, and the smell of sweat, weed and alcohol mixes in the movements of the crowd. In the midst of the fun, though, these things don't seem to bother anyone.

Royal Blood didn’t play one dud. It was constant energy, constant heat and constant rock. Kerr and Thatcher played through a 13-song set of tracks from both of their records. Not once did the energy dim. With just them and their instruments on stage, it was clear that Royal Blood had perfected their skill in harnessing the power of rock and roll. They fed it effortlessly into the crowd, and as witness from the center of it all, the crowd gave it right back.

Feel like you missed out? Totally understandable, but we've got you covered: check out these photos from John Alcala to see even more about the show!

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