I spent my Friday night in a sold out First Avenue mainroom. That’s something I haven’t been able to say in over two years. It’s definitely not intentional, but since the pandemic, I just haven’t found myself back within the black box’s walls. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I can remember the last time I was in First Avenue before the world shut down. Which is a crazy thing to think about, given the fact that I’ve been to damn near every other concert venue around the Twin Cities but First Avenue. For some reason, the historic and beloved mainroom has continued to evaded me — up until last night. Friday was my return to First Ave after a very long 2+ year hiatus. And boy was it good to be back.
English rock duo Royal Blood were on the bill with up-and-coming Canadian rock duo cleopatrick. The show was SOLD OUT.
While there’s no doubt that Royal Blood has the chops to sell out the mainroom on their own accord, this was a jam packed Friday night across the Twin Cities with lots of competing talent and entertainment for fans to attend. Spoon was at the Palace. The Twins were playing at Target Field. Minnesotans could have found themselves at a variety of great events tonight and they probably wouldn’t have been disappointed wherever they may have ended up. But if you were one of many few at Royal Blood, you were treated to an absolute sonic blast.
This was an evening of dynamic duos. Both Royal Blood and cleopatrick are two-piece bands. Neither offer a lot of bells and whistles, but they both know how to play and fill space. And they’re absolutely not shy about turning it up to eleven. I was particularly excited to see cleopatrick play because they’re a band that’s been on my radar for a long time, but I’ve never had the opportunity to catch them live before. And after their set on Friday night, it’s safe to say I am officially a fan.
cleopatrick put on an awesome performance. They were raw, sincere, dirty, and so incredibly likeable. Their music grooved, and they played with a ton of heart and passion. In the best way possible, I felt like I was watching the best band I’ve ever seen in a grungey punk basement. Their set was intimate, but yet so polished and explosive. I wish I got to see them play longer outside of just an opening slot, because I found myself really encapsulated by their entire set. I recommend checking them out next time they’re in town if and when you get the chance.
As I paced around the venue looking for a spot where I could see manage to see even a small part of the stage, the curtain rose and Royal Blood came on. Whether audience members could see or not, the crowd was stoked. To my surprise the band walked onto the stage as a three-piece – not strictly a duo this time around, as they had a third musician on stage playing keys.
None the less, Royal Blood’s set was electric. Lead singer and bassist Mike Kerr was packing all the right punches creating a wall of noise with just a single instrument and pedal smorgasbord. Drummer Ben Thatcher didn’t miss a beat and was rock solid throughout the entire set. The entire band was so tight and delivered rhythm heavy euphoria. One of the highlight’s of the evening was Thatcher’s extended drum solo after Little Monster. While he was hitting every tom, cymbal and snare at rapid speed, his calm precision made his movements seem effortless.
I’ve been fortunate to see Royal Blood before, but last night was my first time seeing them headline their own show. After how much the band has grown in popularity over the past decade, it was really cool to see that not much has changed. While their outfits may be sharper and their budget for stage production may be bigger, the band’s confidence and swagger remains the same. They never doubted they’d be selling out shows across the country. And for good reason. Their formula works, and while they’re not the first band to have a shtick of a bass and drum duo, they’ve certainly found a new way to make it attractive in the mainstream.