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Kings of Leon find loyal subjects in L.A.

The Southern-fried retro rockers have a Greek Theatre crowd hootin' and hollerin'.

September 10, 2007|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

"You guys don't sound like an L.A. crowd," said Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill to the fans at the Greek Theatre on Friday. "You guys are great."

Maybe the singer-guitarist was buying into a stereotype by observing that the hooting, dancing, singing-along throng was more demonstrative than most Angeleno rock audiences. But the near-capacity crowd did radiate an especially warm-fuzzy euphoria. That's the primal thrill of the modern throwback rock made by the Followill clan: brothers Caleb, drummer Nathan and bassist Jared, plus cousin Matthew on lead guitar.

Yet the 75-minute performance also demonstrated that after three progressively improving albums, the Kings can take their Southern-fried, classic-rock-fueled music just about anywhere they like and folks will follow right along.

The audience had already been revved up by the driving, droning thunder of opening act B.R.M.C., whose own devotion to rock's older ways was telegraphed in such selections as "Whatever Happened to My Rock 'N' Roll?" and "Berlin," with their talk of rock as religion and the missing revolution, respectively.

Although both acts displayed fealty to the past, the West Coast trio (abetted by an additional keyboardist-guitarist) is rooted more in early-'90s Brit rock. Drawing from their four albums, the players varied the mix with elements of glam balladry ("666 Conducer") and country twang ("Ain't No Easy Way"), but they never fully escaped the sameness of tempo and mood that pervaded the set.

The Kings, too, occasionally seemed to repeat themselves. But mostly the show was an expert exercise in tension and release. It surveyed 2003's "Youth & Young Manhood," 2005's "Aha Shake Heartbreak" and this year's "Because of the Times" in ways that underscored the Followills' adeptness at advancing familiar forms.

Primitive early favorites, such as a rumbling "Molly's Chambers" and the anthemic "California Waiting," stood up to the more ambitious dynamics of newer numbers, including "Black Thumbnail," the young lovers' anthem "Knocked Up" and the epic mid-tempo sprawl of "Arizona."

Caleb, recently shorn of long hair and full beard, came across as an accessible, emotional conduit into the band's songs, which were by turns angular and muscular. Such numbers as "Slow Night, So Long," the wry "Taper Jean Girl" and the yelping "Charmer" exemplified the sacred/profane dichotomy that informs the music made by these sons of a preacher man -- and lurks in the soul of rock 'n' roll itself. But despite the sense of perversion and secret sinning in his Tennessee twang, the overall effect was more storyteller than pervert confessor.

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