U.S. Royalty – Rough Trade NYC – August 1, 2014
After first hearing U.S. Royalty, you might wonder exactly which decade they were popular in and why you’d never heard of them before. Not long after that, you’ll realize that they aren’t a band from the past, but rather, they are just making out-of-this-time rock music while touring the country—in this millennium. The Washington, D.C., foursome brought their throwback sound to Rough Trade NYC on Friday night and dazzled the crowd there for an hour with an excellent blend of songs from their 2011 release, Mirrors, and their new record, Blue Sunshine. And while they might still be a band trying to make a name for themselves, they are certainly worth your time.
Most touring bands with a few years behind them boast a tight musical performance, but U.S. Royalty’s live show was impeccable. Singer John Thornley’s seemingly effortless voice (no easy feat considering some of the high notes he hits), led the way for the beautifully fuzzy melodies backed by lead guitarist Paul Thornley. When bassist Jacob Michael wasn’t keeping the rhythm with drummer Luke Adams, he was way up the neck of his bass, adding in musical touches that most bands would hire another guitarist to pull off.
Some of U.S. Royalty’s catchiest songs, like “Only Happy in the Country,” make you wonder why you at least haven’t heard this band in commercials. Throughout the set they skimmed the waters of psychedelic rock with the rip-roaring set closer “The Desert Won’t Save You,” glam rock with the Garland Jeffreys cover “Wild in the Streets,” and just about every other classic-rock iteration in between. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine them opening for anyone from Gary Clark Jr. to Portugal. The Man and fitting right in. And while their music might seem more at home surrounded by the crackle of aged vinyl, it’s a very good thing that they’re here with us now. —Sean O’Kane