HEADLINES

Concert Review: The Kills at the Fox Theater

If you plan on seeing the Kills as they wrap up their North American tour, prepare to have your mind blown. On Friday night, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince proved that two musicians are capable of having more energy than an orchestra. With only two guitars, two mics and a drum machine, the duo tore up Oakland’s Fox Theater – even the most skeptical audience member couldn’t have resisted their charm. Mosshart and Hince have achieved a fair amount of celebrity outside of the band over the past couple of years and, rather than going to their heads, fame and fortune only seem to have transformed the band into a bolder, more sophisticated rock powerhouse.

When I saw the Kills back in 2009, their performance was intoxicating. Already a virtuous fan, my love for the band was solidified by their spectacle of raw, passionate guitar shredding. Though Friday night’s show was comparable in quality, the Kills that took the stage were two very different creatures. In 2009, I saw a self-conscious but lovable and trendy indie band still on the rise. On Friday night, I saw a well-traveled pair of rock stars who couldn’t help but intimidate you with their presence.

The hypnotic drum machine of “No Wow” cued on and the leopard print backdrop behind them began to twinkle and flicker blue and black. Mosshart emerged sporting fluorescent pink hair and a fluttering black peasant top. Her vocals were more audacious than I remembered, even taking on a passionate husk at times. She flipped her bright mane around and danced without a care in the world. She even absent-mindedly spit on the stage a few times. A leather-clad Hince would occasionally come to the front of the stage and strike a few chords, as well, inducing cheers and awes from a sizable group of female admirers.

Part punk, part glam rock, part indescribable awesomeness, the Kills appear to have mastered one hell of an entertaining live show. Though at first the performance seemed a bit choreographed, it wasn’t long before the band got so engrossed in their music and the audience’s good vibes that they cut the act. They even got so into it that, until about two-thirds of the way through the show, Mosshart hadn’t taken a breath or even touched her water bottle.

The Kills took a brief tour back to their underground days with stripped-down versions of some old favorites. These included “No Wow,” “Kissy Kissy” and “Fried My Little Brains.” However, the vast majority of the setlist consisted of tracks off of their newer releases, Midnight Boom and Blood Pressures – these were the ones that garnered the most applause.

Though personally a bigger fan of their earlier works, I was pleasantly surprised by the live versions of these newer releases. In fact, “Tape Song,” “DNA,” “Last Day of Magic” and “Black Balloon” were among the best songs of the night. They shared a cleaner, more polished sound that translated to a richer, more epic live experience. Also notable was a surprise rendition of Marilyn Monroe’s “One Silver Dollar,” which managed to display the pinnacle of Mosshart’s vocals.

As the arena rock feel of their new album might have suggested, the Kills have finally grown up, and their live show confirms that. Both their sound and their performance have grown more complex and refined. This follows suit with many other popular indie rock bands from the early 2000s, such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio. While it’s sad to see the youthful angst of the Kills’ earlier years fade away, it’s intriguing to watch them break new ground and claim their position as influential rock legends.

Setlist:

  1. No Wow
  2. Future Starts Slow
  3. Heart is a Beating Drum
  4. Kissy Kissy
  5. URA Fever
  6. DNA
  7. Satellite
  8. Last Day of Magic
  9. Tape Song
  10. Baby Says
  11. One Silver Dollar (Marilyn Monroe Cover)
  12. You Don’t Own the Road
  13. Sour Cherry
Encore:
  1. The Last Goodbye
  2. Black Balloon
  3. Pots and Pans
  4. Fried My Little Brains

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