Meltdown puts Kings of Leon's future in doubt

By Adam Sherwin

Kings of Leon. Photo / Supplied
Kings of Leon. Photo / Supplied

Kings of Leon, the band which placed groupies, hard drinking and drugs back on the rock agenda, have insisted they won't split up after an on-stage meltdown forced the cancellation of their US tour.

The Tennessee rockers - three brothers and their cousin - called a halt to a Spinal Tap-esque tour marred by exploding tour buses, defecating pigeons and drunken brawling. A Dallas concert, abandoned when singer Caleb Followill quit the stage, in order to "vomit" and "drink a beer", prompted the tour cancellation, attributed to the traditional rock ailment, "exhaustion".

However, contradictory tweets issued by the Followill brothers, amid reports of backstage inter-band rows, raised fears that Kings of Leon had inherited the fraternal-feuding crown from Oasis. The band initially blamed heat-induced dehydration for 29-year-old Caleb's Dallas walkout. But bassist Jared Followill, 24, and the youngest of the brothers, tweeted: "I can't lie. There are problems in our band bigger than not drinking enough Gatorade.

There are internal sicknesses & problems that have needed to be addressed. No words."

Music-industry insiders said the band was in danger of "burning out" because they had failed to take time off since shooting to stadium-filling status with the 2008 hit "Sex On Fire".

The three brothers, sons of a Pentecostal preacher, had rebelled against their religious upbringing and fully embraced a "partying" lifestyle. Jared was barely 16 when the group began touring. Family tensions erupted during the recording of their 2010 Come Around Sundown album when Caleb and Nathan got into a drink-fuelled fight in the studio that left the singer with a broken arm, and the drummer with several bruises.

In a recent documentary film approved by the band, Nathan tells Caleb: "You get so f***ing drunk and talk shit. Your band cannot stand you. You have got to get your f***ing self together. We have made you, you piece of shit."

Their current tour, which included two sold-out nights at Hyde Park, has appeared ill-fated. A concert at the London O2 Arena was postponed when two tour buses used by the band were destroyed by fire. Last year, the band stormed off stage three songs into an open-air concert at St Louis after Jared was hit in the mouth and face by pigeon droppings. The band said the situation was "too unsanitary to continue".

Francis Rossi, the Status Quo frontman who is gearing up for yet another UK arena tour in the band's 44th year, had little sympathy with the band's predicament. "Kings of Leon had a meteoric rise but they've been indulged too much," he said. "There's no professionalism there whatsoever. Too many bands want to live this 1975 rock'n'roll myth they've read about. But everything has to be about performing the gig... A husband, wife, brother or cousin in the band is a recipe for disaster. Tweeting about your problems is suicidal. We all go a bit Spinal Tap in the end but Kings of Leon need to shape up if they want to be here in 40 years."

Kings of Leon, whose history of brawling includes a fight back stage at the 2009 Brit Awards, insisted they would return. A spokesman said: "The band is devastated, but in order to give their fans the shows they deserve, they need to take this break."

Jared responded to the cancellation by posting a video on Twitter of himself in the gym, violently pummelling a punchbag. "We are not breaking up!" tweeted Nathan. Matthew Followill, the lead guitar-playing cousin in the band, who recently became a father after his musician wife gave birth to a son, is wisely keeping his counsel. The Kings are due to return to the stage in Canada on 28 September. William Hill is offering 10/1 odds on the rockers not performing again this year.

The band, whose breakthrough 2008 Only By The Night album sold 6 million copies, released their first single in 2003. Their initial Southern rock and boogie influences have become increasingly streamlined into a more stadium-friendly sound.

- THE INDEPENDENT

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