Royal Blood at the Observatory in Santa Ana, CA

One of the best parts of our job here at Music Connection is getting to see so much live music, and Sunday night did not disappoint. The award-winning British rock duo Royal Blood played to a sold out crowd on their summer North American headlining tour in support of their sophomore album, How Did We Get So Dark? released on June 16 via Warner Bros. Records.

The Observatory—an intimate Orange County venue set in the heart of Santa Ana—was jam-packed with 550 avid fans, animated and ready to experience one of the hottest young bands in music today. The capacity crowd was living proof that Royal Blood’s dedicated fan base that continues to surround them is not limited to the U.K.

Anxiously waiting to be blown away, the frenzied crowd surged forward in earnest as the two friends from Brighton, England, Mike Kerr (vocals/bass) and Ben Thatcher (drums) hit the stage. From the booming drum intro of the opening song, “Where Are You Now?” into the hit single, “Lights Out”—tracks off the new album—Royal Blood had the audience locked on for the entirety of the 70 minute, 13-song set. (Full setlist below.)

Royal Blood performed new songs from How Did We Get So Dark? with the same intensity as fan favorites, such as “Little Monster,” “Figure it Out,” and “Come On Over,” from Royal Blood’s 2014 self-titled album. Debuting at No. 1 in the UK, the breakthrough LP catapulted the duo into the biggest breaking British rock band, ever.

One can only marvel at the mesmerizing musicianship of Kerr and Thatcher. The unmistakable sound—a powerful fusion of garage and stoner rock, flavored with a tinge of psychedelia—emanating from the live stage is from two talented players who refuse to compromise, treating every distorted bass lick and each thunderous drumbeat as a musician hell bent on perfection. Utilizing their duality as a creative advantage, not a hindrance, Kerr has mastered the lone melodic instrument in the band, providing both rhythm and lead. Running through both guitar and bass rigs, Kerr shreds his four-string bass like a six-string lead guitar, replete with killer distorted guitar riffs, and a magical tonality that is captivating. Meanwhile, you have Thatcher on drums, rock steady and rhythmic, driving the monstrous rock songs hard—including numerous resounding drum solos—laying the foundation for Kerr to build on.

Bringing an authenticity to all of their performances, it seemed as though the more energy the hard-rocking bass-and-drum duo exerted, the more the OC audience replenished their exuberance for hard-hitting, honest rock.

In an impressive rock-show move, Thatcher hurled himself off the stage during the closing song, “Out of the Black." While Thatcher floated on a sea of upstretched hands, Kerr kept the pedal to the metal, loud and frantic, reminding all of us why we were there—to celebrate the last bastion of freedom on Earth, pure unadulterated Rock ’n’ Roll.

Opening the night for Royal Blood was the Nashville based rock band, Welles–fronted by the band’s namesake, Nashville-via-Ozark, Arkansas, Jehsea Wells. The throwback rocker just released their gritty psych-rock debut EP Codeine, written about Wells’ arrival in Tennessee and his determination to chronicle all the fading memories from home. For download/stream options, visit Welles’ official website.

Royal Blood will conclude the North American leg of their worldwide tour on Aug. 16 at Los Angeles’ Wiltern. Continuing their seemingly endless touring into the fall, they hit the road in direct support of the iconic rock band, Queens of the Stone Age, who will be trekking across the U.S. promoting their upcoming seventh studio album, Villains, due to drop on Aug. 25, via Matador Records. Full upcoming Royal Blood tour dates and ticket information are available here.

You can find all things Royal Blood at their official website. Stream or purchase How Did We Get So Dark? featuring the single “Lights Out” (over 15 million cumulative streams since its release on April 13, 2017), as well as, “I Only Lie When I Love You,” and “Hook, Line, and Sinker.”

Royal Blood Setlist:

  1. “Where Are You Now?”
  2. “Lights Out”
  3. “Come on Over”
  4. “I Only Lie When I Love You”
  5. “Little Monster”
  6. “Hook, Line & Sinker”
  7. “Blood Hands”
  8. “She’s Creeping”
  9. “Hole in Your Heart”
  10. “Figure It Out”
  11. “Loose Change”
  12. “Ten Tonne Skeleton”
  13. “Out of the Black”


Words and text by Joshua Weesner