After many years, the U.S. is finally embracing one of its biggest international stars — Kings of Leon.
The band, with a tapestry of Oklahoma ties, had its homecoming of sorts Friday night at the BOK Center.
The evening started with brothers and bandmates Caleb, Nathan, Jared and cousin Matthew Followill’s induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame with a special preconcert award ceremony.
The band won the 2011 Rising Star award.
“Wow, this is crazy,” said Caleb Followill after receiving his statuette. “I mean, we had heard something was happening, but we didn’t know it would be this.
“It’s great. Oklahoma is always in our heart,” Caleb said. “We love it more all the time. … We’d love to buy homes here.”
‘Sooners at heart’
Nathan and Matthew Followill were born in Oklahoma. The whole Followill family traipsed the countryside with father-figure Leon, who preached the gospel at roadsides and in churches along the way. The rock band is named after him.
“Me and Matt were born here. We’re all Sooners at heart,” Nathan Followill said as the bandmates hoisted their trophies and smiled. Friday was the first stop on the band’s latest tour leg.
“Wow. Just, wow, what an honor,” said Penny Kampf, executive director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. “We are so proud of you guys. We know you’ve been playing since 2003. … We’ve been trying to catch you for that long,” she said, then laughed. “It is our honor today to give you the Rising Star award.”
Kings of Leon’s Okie ties are often proudly touted by the band, though many fans still don’t recognize the connection.
Bob Mallett, his daughter Christie Gilbert and his granddaughter Mackenzie Faith Gilbert, 3, are self-proclaimed “new fans” of Kings of Leon.
“We just bought our tickets on Friday,” said Gilbert, who drove in from Wagoner. “We didn’t know they had any Sooner ties — no idea. That just makes this show so much cooler.”
Her dad agreed. “We were just having a father-daughter date and supporting the arts. To know that we’re seeing ‘hometown’ boys tonight makes it a lot more exciting.”
Then there are the fans who know everything.
Husband and wife team Chris Reynolds and Rebecca Roseberry drove in from Fort Gibson to see their favorite band live.
“These guys, they do our state proud,” Reynolds said. “This award’s been a long time coming. It’s just such a wonderful thing to have a band this powerful, right here from Oklahoma. They are proud to be from the Sooner State.
“Kings of Leon is one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live, and we’ve seen a lot of shows.”
His wife laughed, then said, “He isn’t kidding. We’ve been to over 100 concerts since we got married seven years ago. It’s what we do.”
Kings of Leon has sold more than 6.5 million albums in the U.S. and won four Grammy Awards since its debut in 2003.
The awards ceremony was followed by a near-sellout crowd of fans that filled the BOK Center later that night.