LIVE MUSIC: ROYAL BLOOD AT SWX, BRISTOL


Royal Blood – Photo Credits: Ollie Hayman Photos

Fresh off the back of a world stadium tour with Devon legends Muse and a controversial festival season, Royal Blood come much closer to home, playing some of their most intimate shows in years.

Royal Blood returned to intimate venues such as the SWX Bristol alongside the release of their fourth album, ‘Back to The Water Below.’ This record marked a return to their roots, blending mellower and classic tracks. The demand was so high that they added second dates, delivering electrifying performances with fan favourites like ‘Out of The Black’ and showcasing their musical prowess.

The Brighton-based duo of Mike Kerr (Bassist and Vocalist) and Ben Thatcher (Drums) have only just released their fourth studio album, ‘Back to The Water Below’, which came out on September 1st.

Reported widely that the new album was an instinctive return to their roots, it sees the band maturing and delivering a mix of mellower and true-to-type Royal Blood tracks.

The shows at SWX Bristol and other venues sold out so fast that Royal Blood added second dates. The SWX set included a matinee performance and a main show.

The night began instantly when the duo started off where it all began, with the belter that is ‘Out of The Black’. The infamous riffs uplifted the packed audience, who sang along from the very first drumbeat. Although ten years old, the song still packs a punch live.

The fan – favourites did not stop there. The quick switch to ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Boilermaker’, off their second and third albums respectively, did allow the crowd to catch their breath. The duo finally paused to engage with the crowd, asking how they were, followed by an enormous cheer. Royal Blood were well and truly back.

The set motored on, and the pair quickly went into ‘Mountains at Midnight’, their first single off their latest album. Then, back two years to the more danceable ‘Trouble’s Coming’, lighting the crowd up in red-and-blue strobe lighting to create a musical and visual spectacular.

If this were your first time hearing or seeing Royal Blood live, you would have the same thought as me, “Is that really a bass guitar?” Kerr must be one of the most talented bassists out there; the sound he can produce is more akin to an electric guitar, and the volume this duo can make leaves you feeling that this could easily be a band with many more members.

Although the pair are known for their heavier music, they have softer songs in their sets. This came as ‘Pull Me Through’, another single from ‘Back To The Water Below’ tonight. Although mellow, the energetic crowd still belted out the lyrics.

After this singalong, the duo reverted to form. The heavy riffs of ‘Little Monster’ belted through the venue. Kerr demonstrated his outstanding guitarmanship, producing a stunning solo while Thatcher got up close and personal with audience members.

Two of the three final songs came off the latest album but were in total contrast to each other. The first, ‘Waves’, was slightly softer, with a heavier outro, leading perfectly into ‘Shiner in The Dark’. Although both were only released in the past week, most of the crowd still loved and sang along to the new material.

Royal Blood-Waves Bristol 2/9/23 @SWX

Although there was no encore, the final song could have been mistaken for one. The thundering riffs and drum beat of ‘Figure It Out’ rocked what felt like the whole of Bristol. The audience demanded one more song, but the lights came up, and the set ended.

Even though there was a setlist of only ten songs, the SWX crowd left the venue in high spirits. They had seen one of the best live acts in the country doing what they do best.

Royal Blood amazes me more and more seeing them. Although only my third time, they energised a 4000-capacity arena in Bournemouth, a 27,000 sell-out at Home Park Stadium, and finally a 1900-capacity SWX. Although their studio style may change slightly from album to album, their live sound remains the same: proper rock music.

Royal Blood’s new album, Back to the Water Below, is out now.

Ollie Hayman

Ollie Hayman is a music photographer and blogger from Exeter, Devon.

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