In August 2011, on the cusp of its scheduled Charlotte show, Kings of Leon canceled its entire tour after singer Caleb Followill bailed on stage in Dallas, later citing exhaustion and vocal issues.
“The days and weeks and months after that, we all had a bit of a reflection period where we took a couple steps back and walked away from the music world for a minute and tried to figure out what it was in life that made us happy,” said Followill during a conference call in August.
“We talked a lot, but tried not to talk about music for a little while. It was something we should’ve done a couple years before. We worked and pushed ourselves to a point where if we didn’t slow down, our bodies were going to do it. Some of my fondest memories are those months after Dallas. I got to take a breath and look around at everything that we’d accomplished and where we could take it next.”
On Tuesday, the band of Oklahoma- and Tennessee-raised brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill and their cousin Matthew Followill returns to PNC Music Pavilion following an August bus accident that left Nathan, KOL’s drummer, with broken ribs and the tour postponed for two weeks.
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It’s taken Kings of Leon some time to bounce back from press and 2010 and 2011 performances that painted them as ever pricklier, but that didn’t hurt album sales. It’s latest, “Mechanical Bull” (released in September 2013), charted as well as its predecessor.
To match the arena-ready sound of its later work, the band is pulling out all the stops production-wise on its Ride the Bull Tour. And if its hyped Lollapalooza gig is any indication, Kings is back in a big way.
“We don’t view ourselves as serious as most people do,” says drummer Nathan Followill when asked about the surprise cover of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” at Lollapalooza. “It surprises me when I read stuff that says we’re always super-serious. If you could see us backstage 10 minutes before we go on, we’re like 10-year-old little boys.”
“We wanted to challenge ourselves to have a little more fun on the road. In order to have fun, it’s us doing stuff out of our comfort zone,” says Caleb Followill. “We wanted our show to be a bigger thing. We worked hard to make it look bigger, and for us to get a little deeper into our song catalog.”
Reviewers have praised the tour’s visuals and light show, and the band is switching up the set lists a little each night.
“We started out with (the song) ‘Beautiful War,’ but by the fifth show, we took it out of the set,” Followill says. “When we were in the studio, we thought it was a big song, but there wasn’t much reaction. We went to Europe, put it in the set and it became a huge singalong. We were all curious to see if that would happen in America, and it did.”
Through all the drama, KOL is far from the party-hard band it was in the early days, when its music was still frantic garage blues-rock. All four have married and three have kids.
“Having your family around as much as possible is good for a lot of reasons,” adds Caleb Followill of bringing their broods on the road. “Your children need to be around their dad, but also it keeps your head on straight. For those two hours when you’re on stage and you’re a god and everyone’s screaming and having a good time – the next morning you wake up at 6:30 or 7 to someone else screaming. It makes you realize the reason you’re working as hard as you are.”