With its full tour in support of the new WALLS album starting Jan. 12 in Maryland, Kings of Leon promises to raise the bar with deep set lists and ambitious visuals.
“We’re pushing ourselves,” frontman Caleb FollowiIll tells Billboard. “We’re going to do some really creative things, some things that not only we haven’t done, but that not many rock bands do.” Followill won’t give away too many specifics, but he does draw a line between next level and, well, next level.
“We’re not going to be floating on a stage like Kanye or anything like that,” he explains, “but we’re going to be doing some cool shit and we’re going to be breaking the show up into parts and doing things that are hopefully going to have people leaving saying that was the best show they’ve ever been to.”
Bassist Jared Followill adds, “We have an idea that’s being chiseled into something more specific, but it’s going to be basically a small journey and a story that’s gonna have parts to it. It might involve us leaving the stage and coming back. “
Though still music-centric, the group makes no apologies for putting on a big show.
“It feels almost necessary now,” Jared Followill says. “It’s just the world we live in. Eventually that bubble will pop and we’ll be able to just go out and play with real simple lights and just be us out there, but right now it feels like to keep people’s interest and keep ’em off their phones you have to give them something on stage that keeps them interested. I love watching rock bands, always have, but the most impressed I’ve ever been at shows are the ones with awesome visuals, from Roger Waters to even when we toured with U2, and even smaller bands like when we were out with Secret Machines and their light show was unbelievable. It doesn’t take the place of the music and you can’t rely on it, but if you can add it to a good musical show it takes it to another level.”
In terms of repertoire, meanwhile, Kings of Leon plans to mine its catalog throughout the tour. “With seven albums, we have probably 80-some songs and I feel like it’s important to dip into that and not just go out there and play hits for people,” Caleb Followill says. “We want to kind of educate people that are there for the hits about our journey and about the music that we made before that.”
“That,” of course, is code for “Sex on Fire,” the platinum 2008 single that ranks as Kings of Leon’s biggest hit, particularly in the U.S. Caleb has made noise in the past about ambivalent (and that’s an understatement) feelings toward the song, but it sounds like fans can rely on it being a set list staple in 2017.
“Any song that becomes a hit is going to be kind of cliche and end up being kind of dorky. That happens for all bands,” Jared Followill says. “At the end of the day we can play our coolest song that we’ve ever written and a lot of people are going to leave and grab a beer during that song. ‘Sex on Fire’ is a song we can play and no matter what, no matter where we are, the crowd’s always going to go crazy for that song. We understand that. And when a crowd goes crazy like that it gives you confidence and gives you an energy you can’t get from anything else.”
Kings of Leon have two more dates this year — the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas on Dec. 10 in Inglewood, Calif., and in Mesa, Ariz., two days later — before the WALLS tour gets underway. The group has only 18 shows announced so far in the U.S. and Europe, but all parties expect more dates to be added throughout 2017.
“We’re booked ’til March right now, but there’s a bunch of other things not set in stone,” Jared Followill says. “I just know my phone will start buzzing and it’s our assistant adding things to our calendar. They [management] will tell us, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about doing some more shows’ and I’ll be like, ‘No, you guys have already added those. You can’t trick us!'”