@ Sunderland Stadium Of Light, June 17 2011

Of course thousands of Take That fans will probably say differently but the Stadium of Light last night witnessed probably it’s finest show in its short, yet rich history as a venue for music’s top acts.

Which is saying something when you look at Kings of Leon and think what they aren’t. 

First, anyone heading to Sunderland and expecting a light show and special effects to rival Take That’s extravaganza will have left disappointed.

The obligatory firework show apart and a smattering of dry ice,  there were no giant robots, mass explosions or dance troupes to keep the audience amused.

And in terms of charisma, the Tennessee four-piece have no-one to connect with a crowd like Robbie Williams.

Indeed, save for the occasional “what a beautiful night” from Caleb Followill, there was little dialogue on stage, with the singer not once choosing to introduce the bands songs.

No, this was a night when the music did the talking and boy did KOL talk a good game.

They may have arrived on stage 20 minutes later after run-of-the-mill sets from support bands Mona and White Lies but from the moment they launched into their 95 minute set with Four Kicks, they had the 50,000 crowd in rock nirvana.

Caleb possesses arguably the most distinctive vocal chords in music today and his razor-blade delivery combines the husky blues of the Mississippi delta with the raucous anarchy of a punk rocker.

With brothers Nathan and Jared plus cousin Matthew providing the sort of solid platform from which a rocket could launch, the Kings scaled the heights with voice and instrument in happy harmony.

But the greatest strength of the band is in the quality of their songwriting. Simple, crowdpleasing choruses compete with angst driven verses as they drive through what is already becoming a hugely impressive back catalogue.

Kicking off with three songs from their second album Aha Shake Heartbreak, Four Kicks, Taper Jean Girl and the magnificent The Bucket created a tempo which rarely flagged.

The KOL’s appeal is that so many of their songs could quite conceivably be encores in their own right such is their ability to hit the listener between the ears which is quite ironic because with the show running late, there were a few minor adjustments to the set list which meant they played right through with no break, yet no song omitted.

All five albums were well represented and while on record, southern rock has evolved into a more indie-arena sound, live they possess an edge and vibrancy lacking when yours truly saw them play a cold-nerve-ridden set at Newcastle City Hall on their first UK tour five years ago.

If their latest release Come Around Sundown was my least favourite of their albums, live renditions of Pyro and the wonderfully moody Back Down South may yet force a reassessment.

California Waiting and Molly’s Chambers were inevitable showstoppers and while the absence of  Red Morning Light and Spiral Staircase from Youth And Young Manhood was mildly disappointing, it only emphasised the depth of their catalogue and their refreshing willingness to showcase the range of their output.

Only By The Night was the album which turned Kings of Leon into megastarts so it was no surprise that they played six songs from that album but even Sex On Fire was eclipsed by the excellence of On Call and Knocked Up from its unheraded predecessor Because Of The Times.

Sex On Fire cranked up the volume, creating an atmosphere the Sunderland/Newcastle derby would struggle to match and by the time they closed their energy-busting set with a riff-heavy Black Thumbnail,  the Followills had been crowned Kings of Wearside.

Ian Murtagh