If you’re excited about the Kings of Leon concert at Charlotte’s PNC Music Pavilion on Tuesday night, well, guess what? They’re equally excited about the show.
After a COVID-long hiatus — which the self-described road dog spent learning how to play golf, singing “Baby Shark” to his young daughter, and unsuccessfully trying to fill the void of performing in front of thousands of screaming fans — bassist Jared Followill is looking forward to the “dumbest, smallest aspects” that being on the road has to offer. From getting the day sheet (a one-pager everyone on the tour receives that includes travel time, hotel information and meal schedule) to the sound check, he’s ready.
Those that have followed Kings of Leon from their early days as indie-rock darlings, some of whom have come and gone (or, frankly, aged out), know that Followill was just 13 years old when he formed the band with brothers Caleb and Nathan and their cousin Matthew Followill.
They’ve been on tour for the vast majority of their adult lives. But what keeps Jared coming back for more, he told me, is the personal connection he makes with people in the audience.
When I asked what he sees when he looks out into the crowd, half-expecting some generic and uninspiring answer, Followill responded that he looks for people that are into the show and revealed that he finds himself going back to the same one or two people throughout the show, even though he knows it may make them feel awkward.
Intrigued, I asked Followill what he was looking for in those one or two people. His reply? “I’m looking for validation.” (Pause right there for a second and let that sink in.) So much for the criticism of Kings of Leon for losing the soul found in their songs of the mid-2000s. After all, isn’t validation from others what we’re all looking for in whatever it is we do with our lives?
Asked how he responds to getting that validation from the audience, Followill replied that it gives him more confidence. And having more confidence allows him to play with more conviction, which helps him better contribute to the show — with the ultimate goal of creating a night that “is it’s very own thing.”
In case you’re wondering what would draw Followill to look in your direction and lock eyes with you, he said it’s “honest, raw reactions.” Maybe it’s when someone hears him rip a bass line and he sees that person respond with a head nod that says, “Hell yeah.” Or it could be seeing someone crying that lets Followill know that he’s doing his job on stage.
Going back to the origins of music, which for the Followills means inside a United Pentecostal Church led by their father Ivan, Jared said musicians were “just trying to connect with somebody on a way more personal level.” And Followill seems to have found his own personal way.
When asked which songs he enjoys performing for the audience, Followill said he enjoys the slow songs because “they come more naturally” to the band. After briefly lamenting the pressure to produce more up-tempo songs, Followill said he enjoys slower songs because they’re more emotional, more honest, easier for the band to buy into, and “come from all the right places.”
Part of me wishes I had more time than our 15-minute interview would allow, to try to find out exactly what that means, but I gather Followill believes the band puts on a better performance when they believe in the music they’re playing and are allowed to express themselves in an authentic way.
And before you start thinking I sound like too much of a Kings of Leon fanboy, Followill wasn’t immune to the typical concert-promoting interview responses where he avoided citing a favorite venue on the upcoming tour but, instead, said he was excited about all 20-plus stops.
For a second it even sounded like he’s not exactly sure where he’s headed on this tour, but just happy to be back on the road.
You can read reviews online — or better yet, listen to the music — to decide for yourself whether Kings of Leon’s latest album “When You See Yourself” is worth supporting. And you can decide for yourself, in light of their reputation for impressive live performances, whether it’s worth buying a ticket to hear a mix of new songs and Grammy award-winning hits at their upcoming show.
But having spent a short time with one of the four Followills that make up Kings of Leon, I ended the call by thanking Jared for his authenticity and feeling like there might actually have been someone at the other end of that emotional connection I have felt at so many concerts. So maybe this one is worth checking out after all.
If you go
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd.
Tickets: $35 and up.