Aside from one unwelcome special effect, Kings of Leon's concert thoroughly gratified an audience of about 8,000 at the Sprint Center on Wednesday.
A light dusting of artificial snow was dropped on fans near the stage during the icy song "Cold Desert." The stunt did not amuse Kansas City rock fans tormented by a long, harsh winter.
The Nashville-based band needn't have resorted to such trickery. Kings of Leon's straightforward renditions of over two dozen songs reaffirmed its status as one of the world's most stalwart mainstream rock bands.
A family act consisting of three brothers and a cousin, Kings of Leon is touring in support of its sixth studio album. "Mechanical Bull" represents a welcome return to form after a lackluster release in 2010 and a spell of erratic behavior that tarnished the band's reputation.
With the aid of one supplemental musician, Kings of Leon redeemed itself with Wednesday's businesslike effort. Largely devoid of showy gestures, the simple one-hour-45-minute presentation placed the emphasis squarely on the music. Live footage and stock images displayed on a large video screen complemented the material. Only the lasers employed during the encore distracted from the performance.
Kings of Leon toils in the conventional rock ‘n’ roll tradition of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry. The band is most distinctive when it sticks to its roots. The bittersweet rush of "The Bucket" and the delectably sleazy "Molly's Chambers" showcased the band's core strengths. The furious soul stomp of "Four Kicks" was a prime example of what the classic rock band the Who once characterized as "maximum R&B."
The band is less reliable when it ventures into arena rock.
A ponderous rendition of the overblown "The Immortals" was wretched.
Yet Kings of Leon offered winning renditions of two of its most grandiose songs. "Supersoaker" possessed an appealing blend of cavalier bluster and homespun charm. The audience repeatedly shouted the phrase "your sex is on fire" during a reading of the lusty 2008 hit "Sex on Fire." The off-color exercise was more unnerving then sensual.
Before Kings of Leon restored its honor, Gary Clark, Jr. furthered his burgeoning stature as one of the most exciting blues-based musicians to emerge in the past two decades. A magnificent guitarist and persuasive vocalist, Austin's Clark and a three-piece band transformed the standard "Catfish Blues" into a futuristic statement. Clark sang that "you're going to know my name by the end of the night" during the ominous "Bright Lights." His magnificent 50-minute performance justified his claim.