‘I can see your underwear from down here’: Live Review of Royal Republic @ KOKO, 01/12/17

Bring forth the crown, “the Royal” is in town! On Friday, the 1st of December 2017 at KOKO in Camden, Royal Republic did their line justice: The band brought magnificently polished garage rock to the city of London once again and honoured the stage that had already seen The Rolling Stones, Prince, Lady Gaga, and many more legendary acts with an unapologetic rock ’n’ roll tour de force.

After a pleasantly hard rock warm-up with hints of metal by Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics, Royal Republic entered the stage at 8 pm sharp. They didn’t have to be asked twice and seemed as eager to commence the mayhem as was the audience; the lights went out, and seconds later the four Swedes flooded the venue with their manically energetic guitar riffs and frontman Adam Grahn’s magnetic voice.

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When Spotify recently proudly presented me with the musical highlights of my year 2017, Royal Republic was at the very top of the list of the bands I had listened to the most. And there is a very good reason for this. Over seven years ago, in October 2010 in a filthy punk rock venue somewhere in the middle of Germany, Royal Republic happened to be the first of two supporting acts for the The Donots whom everyone had come for. But when the crowd left the venue some hours of jumping and screaming along later, everyone exclusively talked about that Swedish band that no one had heard of before and that had, quite simply, stolen the show. Since then, I have seen Hannes Irengård, Jonas Almén, Adam Grahn, and Per Andreasson perform live more than five times; one time, a friend and I even crafted kitschy paper crowns that we threw on stage and that they – we were so thrilled! – wore for the duration of couple of songs. I was fortunate to watch the band become more and more popular over time; Royal Republic followed their first studio album, We are the Royal (2010), with Save the Nation in 2012 and, most recently, Weekend Man (2016). Since their foundation in 2007, their well-earned success has taken them all over Europe and the United States of American to perform their music.

Long story short: Royal Republic is one of the very few bands whose live performances sound even better than their recorded songs – and this barely ever happens in the era of auto-tune and obsessive editing that aims at paralyzing perfection. Side effect: You will want to see them perform over and over and over again since their music – let me tell you – is an incredibly addictive mix of garage punk, sexy rock’n’roll and phenomenally energetic fun.

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At KOKO, Royal Republic did not only deliver their most popular songs – ‘Underwear’, ‘Full Steam Spacemachine’, ‘Tommy Gun’, and ‘Make Love Not War’ – but also graced the audience’s ears with Iron Maiden’s ‘Fear of the Dark’ and The Police’s classic ‘Roxanne’ to honour the United Kingdom’s rich musical history. The audience, as you might assume, absolutely lost it. Knowledgeable in the band’s song lyrics (and in some cases even the dance moves from the music video ‘Full Steam Spacemachine’), the audience sang along at the top of their lungs for one and a half intoxicating hours. Memorable moment: As the band has always shamelessly played out the downright embodiment of sexiness that is Adam Grahn, frontman and founder, Mr. Grahn’s announcement may have taken one or two teenaged groupies by surprise: He is now married and proud father to a little girl! I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the man when the audience’s reaction to these joyous news was at best, let’s say, unenthusiastic.

Halfway through the performance, Royal Republic exchanged their electronic instruments with the acoustic equivalents and spoiled the audience with the country-style version of ‘Addictive’. This is how far Royal Republic have taken their humorous over-confidence: In 2014, they founded Royal Republic & The Nosebreakers, a tribute band to, well, themselves, in order to “play their own songs in another band’s style” – Fantastic.

As the concert was one of KOKO’s ‘early shows’. the sweat fest ended with a performance of the all-time favourite ‘Baby’ and a choreography of bows and thank-you’s at 9.30 pm on the dot. Continuing their tradition, plectrums and drumsticks as well as the setlist were given to lucky die-hard fans in the front row, and when the exhausted audience left the venue, all that remained were empty plastic cups scattered on the ground, and a reverberation of something truly amazing.

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