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THIS BAND IS ON FIRE

Shove off Lynyrd Skynyrd: Kings of Leon are the new lords of Southern rock

I would never claim to have the powers of omnipotence and foresight of a Nostradamus, but after perusing some old articles I wrote about rockers Kings of Leon, I have to believe I'm at least as reliable a prophet as faux-Caribbean fortune teller Miss Cleo.

Check this out:

For (Kings of Leon's) second album "Aha Shake Heartbreak," Tennessee's Followill brothers (guitarist Caleb, bassist Jared and drummer Nathan) and their cousin (guitarist Matthew) faced a decision: Lose a little twang, move toward the rock 'n' roll mainstream and work on being this generation's version of the Black Crowes or stay rootsy and continue to be underground darlings like My Morning Jacket.

The Kings appear to have chosen national prominence, though on "Aha Shake Heartbreak" it feels like they're still trying to learn the language.

- Michael D. Clark, March 6, 2005, Houston Chronicle

Wow!!! Talk about hitting the nail on the head? What vision. What astute analysis.

(Now, before you rip me for patting myself on the back, keep in mind that I am well aware of the many band predictions that I have whiffed on over the years too. I'm just not going to republish them for the good readership of CultureMap to see.)

The Kings of Leon are now quite fluent in the language of rock 'n' roll icons. What I did get wrong, however, back when I was a wee lad of 30ish was the notion that the group's best hope was to rise to the level of the Black Crowes. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that that this little family band from Nashville would be redefining the Southern rock experience in the 21st century.

Then again, that was three years before lead singer Caleb Followill had wrapped his hiccuping nasal tenor around future No. 1 alt-rock hits "Use Somebody" and "Sex on Fire." And it was long before Kings of Leon found radio success again with more recent singles "Radioactive" and "Pyro" from the group's most recent album, Come Around Sundown.

Never did I think we would talking about Kings of Leon as a band who had sold around seven million albums around the world and had no problem filling amphitheaters as the band will do at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Saturday.

Even more amazing is that these four Kings have managed to pillage the rock 'n' roll kingdom with a blend of Southern rock rootsiness and arena rock flourishes and have done it all with all the bravado and hubris of a Christian folk band. I did a broad web search in an effort to track down dirt on any member of the Kings of Leon. The worst offense I could find was a story about bassist Jared Followill being briefly detained at Bonnaroo last year after driving a golf cart around with a cocktail on board.

That's it? That's the rock 'n' roll equivalent of jaywalking.

Needless to say the Kings of Leon are well on their way to equaling the success of fellow Southern power band The Black Crowes. With a few more hits (and a little more tabloid-savvy), the band might start inching closer to the kings of that genre: Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers.

I'll check back in six years and see how that prediction is working for me.

Kings of Leon

7 p.m. Saturday at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Tickets: $36.50-$60.50

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