The W Hotel hosted U.S. Royalty for a vinyl release party for the band’s second album, Blue Sunshine, Thursday as part of its P.O.V. Live series in its rooftop lounge. People packed the venue to listen to a free show and drink a new beer from DC Brau, aged in Buffalo Trace barrels.
Fans of the D.C.-based band were in high spirits, and there were many singalongs and impromptu danceaways when the band took to the stage for a healthy set. Blue Sunshine was initially released in January, so it seems like a lot of folks had time to learn the words to recite along with singer John Thornley and company.
Prior to the concert, the band sat down with an interview conducted by Svetlana Legetic of Brightest Young Things. For U.S. Royalty, it proved to be a good opportunity to launch a charm offensive, where they spoke plainly about their love of D.C. and their desire to land a record contract with a major label.
Legetic clearly has known U.S. Royalty since their inception, so perhaps that put them at ease during their chat. They are new to me, however, and I was impressed by their plain speaking. John Thornley, guitarist Paul Thornley, bassist Jacob Michael and drummer Luke Adams discussed things such as how much they like living in D.C. basically because it’s comfortable to them.
John Thornley deadpanned about having no real sense of style despite his reputation to the contrary. The others joked about their preshow ritual of trying to locate their bassist, who always turns up on time so they don’t know why they worry. And they were pretty upfront about holding out for a good deal on a big label after self-releasing two albums.
They played a warm-up set of three songs before going up to the roof to play P.O.V. Live. They identified Fleetwood Mac and U2 (particularly The Joshua Tree) as major influences, and that shown through in their performance. Two of the three songs were from the new album, and they demonstrated the kind of arena soft rock that the band would like to perform in bigger concert halls.
The folky “Into the Thicket” is a forlorn song about connecting with someone. The verses are soft and whispery while the chorus is a thundering declaration of anticipation: “I can see the signs/I can see you’re coming/I can feel the wait/I can feel the wait/I can feel the wait.” It’s perhaps a more effective song to catch live than in recording. The band likes to rock out as well, as with “Valley of the Sun,” which is more of a rollicking foot-tapper with an attitude that says, “Hey, I’ve got nothing to worry about.”
The actual concert was so crowded that it was difficult to see the band perform, which is a good problem by some measures. The large and enthusiastic crowd was a sure sign that U.S. Royalty’s message are getting through. You could really see the potential of an arena-rock band in the making if a label were to pair them with the right producer and the right marketing. At the same time, I definitely got the sense that U.S. Royalty aren’t going to sit still–that they are going to continue to make music and follow where that path leads them. So it will certainly be interesting to see how the next two years shake out for these gents.