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Kings of Leon at Madison Square Garden -- Concert Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
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NEW YORK -- It was Southern-style rock night Thursday at Madison Square Garden as Tennessee's Kings of Leon made their local arena debut as a headliner with a performance that demonstrated that the band definitely is ready for the big time.

The Kings clearly were ebullient at their newfound arena status, largely due to the success of their recent fourth album, "Only by the Night," and high-charting single "Sex on Fire." "I've been dreaming about this my whole life," lead singer Caleb Followill said, and later he thanked the crowd for being "one of the true fan bases in music today."

He and his relatives -- the band consists of three brothers and a cousin -- delivered a powerhouse performance suitably dominated by the anthemlike numbers from the 2008 release. The killer grooves and infectious riffs that have long marked their raucous, boogie-flavored rock were well augmented by the more complex structures and distinctive melodies of the recent songs, and a well-paced smattering of ballads prevented the evening from lapsing into repetitiveness.

Followill's alternately roaring and yowling vocals were so consistently powerful that one began to fear for his vocal cords by the end of the evening, and his efforts were well matched by cousin Matthew's snarling lead guitar, brother Jared's solid bass lines and brother Nathan's propulsive drumming. The additions of keyboards gave some of the music a Who-like texture, while the overhead video screens featuring fast-edited film montages that recalled U2's arena tours.

Opening act the Whigs delivered a brief but solid set in which they displayed their ability to weave myriad musical influences, ranging from grunge to psychedelia to punk, into their tightly written, instantly memorable songs.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York (Thursday, Jan. 29)