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Concert Reviews

Royal Blood and Bad Nerves Serve Raw UK Rock In Brooklyn

[Photo by: Joseph Buscarello]

UK hard rock duo Royal Blood are on the road. Fresh from the release of their excellent fourth LP, Back To The Water Below, the boys from Worthing, England, are hitting clubs and festivals on the East Coast. They wrapped up the first leg of the North American jaunt with two nights in two New York City boroughs. Joined by exciting punk and indie rock prospects Bad Nerves, the show on October 2 at Bushwick’s Brooklyn Steel was chock full of raw, in-your-face rock and roll from two of England’s finest young bands.

[Royal Blood at Brooklyn Steel, 10/2/2023. Photo by: Joseph Buscarello]

Royal Blood cut their teeth in the early 2010s as a trio consisting of Mike Kerr (vocals/bass), Joe Dennis (guitar), and Matt Swan (drums). The band was reduced to a duo with the early departure of Dennis. That left Mike Kerr to rip chords on his 4-string bass through an array of pedals and effects. He effortlessly blends bass and electric guitar sounds, yielding a perfectly mixed multi-tone palate that creates the illusion of two instruments. Ben Thatcher joined Kerr when he moved back to England. This sharpened their style locally until an opening support opportunity for Arctic Monkeys in 2013 put the band on the map.

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Fast-forward to today and Royal Blood now have four albums and numerous headlining world tours to their name. For this latest run of shows in the U.S. and Canada, Kerr and Thatcher are giving fellow Brits Bad Nerves the same opportunity they had a decade ago in the support role. Coming from a different cut of the rock spectrum, the boys from Essex present a fresh blend of classic punk and nostalgic 2000s indie rock. The band exploded onto the scene with their vibrant and catchy self-titled LP in 2020. They also recently released the aptly-titled new single “USA” just ahead of hitting the road with Royal Blood.

[Bad Nerves at Brooklyn Steel, 10/2/2023. Photo by: Joseph Buscarello]

As Brooklyn Steel filled in early on Monday night, a palpable buzz permeated the air. Royal Blood have been on the road in Europe since May, generating enormous buzz with their new record. But the excitement was not only for the headliners. Walking around the room, you heard countless people telling their friends who the opening band was. Just before Bad Nerves took to the stage, two fans on the rail were chatting with the band’s videographer. They told him, “We love Bad Nerves and now that we know more of the lyrics, their set is so much fun!”. This was a perfect sentiment for the band as their infectious, upbeat sound follows in the footsteps of bands like The Strokes and Fontaines D.C.. Instilling pure joy and exuberance with their live performances.

[Bad Nerves at Brooklyn Steel, 10/2/2023. Photo by: Joseph Buscarello]

Pushed to one side of the stage to avoid interfering with Ben Thatcher’s towering kit, Bad Nerves brought the local pub show vibe to the Brooklyn Steel stage. The five-piece band feed off each other’s intensity as take turns engaging with the crowd and each other. The songs glide in and out of their classic punk rock backbone and indie rock embellishments. It all lies somewhere between the relentless flow of IDLES and the breeziness of early Phoenix or Franz Ferdinand. Bobby Bird’s passionate vocals span that spectrum seamlessly while a band seeping with chemistry and charisma lays down the groove behind him.

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After cruising through a few songs, Bobby took a moment to thank the crowd for their support. Acknowledging how ecstatic they were to be in the U.S. for the first time and feeling overwhelmed with the reception they were getting. They ended their set with the fiery album closer “Dreaming” and walked off stage to thunderous applause from a crowd full of new fans.

Once the stage was turned over, fans really got a sense of the raw nature of the show they were about to witness. Rarely is the drummer from a band front and center at a concert. But Ben Thatcher’s kit was on a small riser and pushed all the way to the front edge of the stage. Fans right in front were thrilled knowing that they were going to feel every drum hit in their bones. Mike Kerr was just off to the right of the drums, also pushed to the edge of the stage. Meaning he could bring as much of the crowd as they could into the experience. Eager anticipation burst into a thunderous ovation as the house lights dropped and Royal Blood made their way onstage.

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[Royal Blood at Brooklyn Steel, 10/2/2023. Photo by: Joseph Buscarello]

The band didn’t waste a second getting the groove going. Thatcher laid down the intro beat from Back To The Water Below opening track, “Mountains at Midnight”. This sent the room into an instant frenzy. Kerr’s driving rhythm on his mixed bass and guitar setup bounced through the room as he croons, “I’m a bruise you soothe/In your dancing shoes/I’m a ticking timebomb hooligan/Come to light your fuse”. The setlist rolled on as the duo bounced around their discography. Next up was funky rager “Boilermaker” from 2021’s Typhoons. That was followed by the relentless “Come On Over” from the band’s seminal self-titled 2014 debut.

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Ben Thatcher took center stage with a groovy drum solo after “Little Monster”, cheered on by the crowd as the beats layered and grew to a fever point. A sharp snare hit ended the solo in an instant, cutting the house lights and leaving the crowd screaming for more in the darkness. The 16-song setlist hit all four of the band’s records. It showed just how consistent Royal Blood has been in delivering their signature hard rock sound for a decade now.

Thatcher then jumped off the stage into the crowd and singlehandedly separated the audience for a wall of death. Pacing up and down the alley he created, Thatcher pumped up the fans to the max before returning to his kit. He teased the pent-up crowd with the first few beats of “Out Of The Black” before Kerr’s chords dropped in. This sent the entire floor into a mosh pit that did not relent until the duo left the stage.

[Royal Blood at Brooklyn Steel, 10/2/2023. Photo by: Joseph Buscarello]

To open the encore, Bad Nerves guitarist Will Phillipson was invited on stage. This was for a lush performance of Back To The Water Below closing track, “Waves”. The song was a perfect choice to open the encore. It dialled back the energy of the main set with a somewhat psychedelic alt-rock ballad. The energy of the song slowly swells until Kerr’s signature bass chords take over the back end of the track, mixing into the fluttering keyboards in the background. The night ended with “Figure It Out”. One of the songs that put the duo on the map and cemented their status as hard rock mainstays.

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New York City has always been a destination for musicians and artists to come and make a name for themselves. Monday night in Bushwick was no exception. Two of Britain’s most exciting bands took over Brooklyn Steel for a night of pure rock and roll far from home. Bad Nerves laid the foundation with their spirited punk rock. Then Royal Blood pounded the message home with their signature hard rock grooves. 

[Royal Blood at Brooklyn Steel, 10/2/2023. Photo by: Joseph Buscarello]

Royal Blood spent the summer bouncing all over Europe. These two shows in New York City close the East Coast leg of the U.S. tour. In November, the duo head over to the West Coast for a run of shows. They will put an exclamation point on this new cycle with a final show in San Diego. Head over to the band’s website for the full tour details. And check out idobi’s full photo gallery of Royal Blood’s raucous show at Brooklyn Steel below.

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