Live: Kings of Leon, Houston
The NCAA has brought its Final Four college basketball tournament into Houston this weekend, and even though there are actually only two days with any kind of real basketball games (Saturday and Monday) the league and the city of Houston naturally wants to milk the event for all it’s worth. So there’s a bunch of other stuff going on – only some of it truly related to basketball – including the “Big Dance” concert series on Friday-Sunday.
We opted not to check out Friday’s show with indie rockers The Hold Steady and headliners Sublime with Rome. On Saturday, though, we braved the crowds to see a bill that included Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Panic! At The Disco and headliners Kings of Leon. Way more people attended Saturday’s show than Friday’s, and the weather thought it would bless us with temps in the mid-80s. So there’s that familiar stank of sweat, beer and cigarettes in a thick crowd – just the kind of thing you want to take your kids to, right?
You see, the NCAA is telling everyone this whole thing is supposed to be wholesome and family-oriented. They don’t even sell beer at the stadiums during the games, for god’s sake. But they forgot to tell that to fruity emo popsters Panic! At The Disco and their lead singer Brendon Urie. I don’t know if he wasn’t getting the response he wanted deeper than four rows into the crowd, or if the heat got to him, but he started cussing like a hooker working the Rodeo. “This next song is about f**king,” Urie told the little girls sitting atop their fathers’ shoulders. “It sure is f**king hot here,” he observed, as well as “You sure can f**king drink down here.”
That was almost enough to distract everyone from the day’s hosts, including rapper/actor Ludacris, and special basketball guests Bill Walton and Christian Laettner. Walton, the former Portland Trail Blazer and NBA Hall of Famer, says he goes to concerts all the time and his all-time faves include the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and the like. Laettner, who is the only player to start on four Final Fours (and the guy who sank a game winner to give his Duke Blue Devils the 1992 title), revealed he grew up on Van Halen and likes Smashing Pumpkins. And for what it’s worth, Walton and Laettner both picked UConn to win it all.
So it was a relief when Kings of Leon hit the stage, exploding right out the chute with “Radioactive.” They did a lot from their latest album Come Around Sundown, including the retro-sounding “Mary” and the fiery “Pyro.” Another new one, “Crawl,” had some fine nasty guitar work. I must admit, their stuff started to sound all the same to me after about five or six songs in, but the Followill clan certainly can bring the rock. It was kinda cool to hear their music bouncing around between skyscrapers in downtown Houston – even people in high rises blocks away could be seen out on their balconies enjoying the music.
Houston seemed well prepared to handle the massive crowd that attended Saturday’s Big Dance concerts. Plenty of security, plenty of space for crowd flow and massive TV screens and a crystal-clear sound system that delivered the music anywhere in the park made this a pleasant experience, even for families. Kings of Leon wrapped it up shortly after 4 p.m. and many in the crowd settled on the grass to enjoy the games for free on the billboard-sized screens while the hardcore fans with tickets packed sardine-style into the light rail trains to make the eight-mile ride down to Reliant Stadium. We edged out before that stop, and caught ’em on TV. Ahh.