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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Arts & Music

Kings of Leon back on the road for Tampa concert


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It’s not easy to take a break when you’re part of one of the most successful bands in the world. But Kings of Leon needed to take a hiatus after touring behind its 2010 album, “Come Around Sundown.”

The edgy pop-rock band had been on a breakneck pace since it signed with RCA in 2002. Kings of Leon was caught in a vicious cycle of record, tour and repeat for most of the last decade.

The brilliant “Aha Shake Heartbreak” became a critical favorite in 2005. “Only By the Night,” which includes such hit singles as “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody,” became a commercial monster in 2008.

Kings of Leon, which will perform Friday at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, continued to feed the beast until 2011. “We had to take a break and step away from the music scene,” drummer Nathan Followill said during a teleconference with his bandmates from Chicago, days before the tour bus accident that would injure him and derail the tour for a few days. “We needed to be with our family as fathers and husbands.”

But the extended break was very different for Kings of Leon, who have morphed personally as well as professionally during recent years. During their “Aha Shake Heartbreak” days, the band, which is comprised of three brothers — Caleb Followill, Nathan Followill and bassist Jared Followill — and cousin guitarist Matthew Followill , were living like the last real rock stars.

The stick-figure thin rock stars played their celebrity to the hilt a decade ago. “Fans would go crazy for us,” vocalist-guitarist Caleb Followill said during a 2005 chat. “And all of a sudden we had money. I remember buying this incredible jacket for $1,200. I brought a girl back to my hotel. I fell asleep and when I woke up, I found that she stole my jacket. My solution was to get a security guard at my door to make sure the girls didn’t take anything when they left.”

But that was then. The band has matured and so has their sound. “Mechanical Bull” feels more relaxed than “Come Around Sundown.” The band deviates from its formula a bit by reaching back further into its classic rock roots. However, the big hooks, which mark KOL’s anthemic hits, are present throughout “Supersoaker,” “Rock City” and “Coming Back Again.”

“We knew when we were making this album we wanted to make something a little different and we wanted to have a little more fun by stepping out of our comfort zone,” Caleb Followill said.

It’s worked for Kings of Leon, who have morphed with their latest album and beyond. During Lollapalooza last month in Chicago, the band surprised the crowd with a version of Robyn’s synth-pop smash “Dancing On My Own.”

“I was playing the chords to ‘Use Somebody’ and I realized that you barely had to change the chords and you could play ‘Dancing On My Own,’ Caleb Followill said. “It just worked out, and we got all the ladies dancing.”

The band also is throwing a bone to the fans from their early days, who are predominantly male. “For this tour we’re playing a different song in each city,” Matthew Followill said. “We’re playing some songs we haven’t played in a long time or a deep track or a cover. We’re digging deeper when it comes to our set list.”

That’s due to the influence of some iconic acts Kings of Leon has opened for over the years. “I think we’ve learned some things from the bands we’ve toured with, like U2 and Pearl Jam, about how to put a show together,” Caleb Followill said. “But we’re also learning from younger acts like Taylor Swift. The more you give to your fans, the more you get back. That goes for spending time with your fans or taking requests and making them feel more involved.”

Since the members of the band are married with children, the time the Followills spend with their followers is different these days, and that’s just fine with the Tennessee based band.

Kings of Leon is all about family, but that makes sense since that was what it was all about when the band formed in 1999.

“It’s always been a good thing for us being related since we have thicker skin around each other,” Caleb Followill said. “It takes more to get on our nerves than people that aren’t related. It’s all good. Some things are the same and some are different.”

Having children has changed the equation for the band, but in a good way. “Having your family around as much as possible is great for a lot of different reasons,” Caleb Followill said. “It keeps your head on straight, and that’s what we need at this point in life. It puts things in perspective. When you’re on that stage for two hours, you’re a God. Everyone is screaming at you. But the next morning you wake up at 6:30 in the morning and someone else is screaming at you and that keeps you sane. Your kids make you work harder than ever. That’s what it’s about when you’re part of a family.”

Kings of Leon was back with its family for much of August since Nathan Followill broke ribs during a tour bus accident. However, the group is back on the road.

“I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to being on the road this year,” Caleb Followill said.

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