Kings Of Leon rock Newcastle United’s St James’s Park

KINGS OF LEON ... rocking St James's Park in Newcastle. Pic: Paul Taylor.
KINGS OF LEON ... rocking St James's Park in Newcastle. Pic: Paul Taylor.

AMERICAN rockers Kings Of Leon scratched a seven-year itch when they played to 25,000 fans at Newcastle United’s ground on Saturday night.

That’s how long it is since the stadium hosted its last gig, by Rod Stewart back in 2007.

Since then, the Stadium of Light, 10 miles down the road in Sunderland, has carved a niche for itself as the home of North-East mega-gigs.

But now, after dipping a toe back into the pool, Newcastle are looking to host one of these money-spinning crowd-pullers every year.

Proceedings were kicked off by Glasgow band Twin Atlantic, whose half-hour set of Biffy Clyro-type rock went down as smoothly with the early arrivals as a nice cold pint on this sunny afternoon.

Next up were Southend garage-goth band The Horrors, who on the face of it, seemed a strange addition to the bill.

The crowd’s lukewarm response to their opening song had singer Faris Badwan deadpanning: “Thanks for the rapturous reception,” and things went downhill when he asked if there were any Mackems present.

The end of their set couldn’t come soon enough for many of the crowd, and, I suspect, the band.

Main support White Lies were a different proposition. Their big Joy Division-influenced songs were made to be played in stadiums; indeed, they were also on the bill when Kings Of Leon played in Sunderland three years ago.

The crowd loved their anthemic indie-rock, and songs like Unfinished Business, Bigger Than Us and the magnificent Death went down a storm.

White Lies are surely destined to headline shows like this one day, and it was noticeable that they took up seats in the press box for the main attraction, to pick up some tips on how it should be done.

When Kings Of Leon played at Sunderland, they took the stage an hour late after their flight was delayed. Tonight, their timing was spot on, and they appeared bang on 9pm.

Opening with Supersoaker, the first track on their latest album, Mechanical Bull, it was clear from the off that they are a very different proposition live to their laidback recorded sound.

Their deep-fried southern rock sounds suitably massive in this setting, and the opener was one of half a dozen songs from the No 1 album (their fourth in a row) which were scattered throughout their set.

When they tossed in the crowd-pleasing Fans just three songs in, you knew this was a band with plenty of confidence in their back catalogue, and for two hours they mixed and matched some of their finest material.

On Call was another popular choice, as was early fan favourite The Bucket, and they dusted off Razz, another track from the same Aha Shake Heartbreak album, for the first time in years.

It was the huge multi-platinum album Only By The Night which made the Kings one of the biggest bands in the world, of course, and it was well-represented, with six of its 11 tracks given an airing.

That included main set closer Use Somebody, Crawl, which was the first of three encores, and the evening’s inevitable climax, Sex On Fire, which produced the biggest singalong of the night, and saw the crowd lit up by a sea of mobile camera phones.

It was a fitting end to a triumphant night, and one which the St James’s Park hierarachy hope will put the stadium firmly back on the stadium-gig circuit.