Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Kills: Live At The 9:30 Club

It has been just over one week since The Kills performed for a sold out 9:30 Club crowd in downtown Washington D.C.  The ringing in my ears has subsided, but the music in my head has not.  I can still hear the crunching beat of the show’s opener “No Wow”.  I can still see Alison Mosshart, standing upon the dimmed stage, with tears forming, as she sang “The Last Goodbye”.  These are just two of the many stills that stand out within my mind as I recollect the night.

The evening began when the Brooklyn-based duo Hunters, and their accompanying drummer and bassist, took the stage.  If singer Isabel Almeida’s raucous scream doesn’t put a grin on your face, it’s probably safe to say you’re no fun.  They brought a special dose of energy that invigorated the room and matched The Kills vibe.

Having heard very little of the band in advance, I came away impressed.  I must admit, their single “Deadbeat” has, on more than one occasion, made a home in my head this past week.  The studio version is nearly identical to the live rendition and is every bit as catchy.

The two-piece rock band JEFF The Brotherhood followed, with a set that could best be described as loud and in your face garage rock.  From the first piercing note out of Jake Orrall’s guitar, to the final blast of Jamin’s drum kit, JTB laid down the noise.  Having heard some of their material beforehand, this came of no surprise, and didn’t disappoint.  Though I confess I was a bit distracted during a portion of their set, after spotting Alison Mosshart cheering from an upper balcony to the left of the stage.

After a short break, the curtains that formerly draped the backdrop of the stage were pulled, revealing the very Kills-centric leopard print which hung beneath.  Just moments away now, the crowd grew tense, and the lights dimmed.  Suddenly, The Kills appeared, amongst all the rumbling goodness of “No Wow”.  It provided such a blast of energy, and really set the tone for the entire evening.  When coupled with the duo’s overwhelming stage presence, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better introduction.

I’ve always admired The Kills incredible sense of style.  In person, the duo looked every bit as awesome as you would expect.  Alison’s frazzled pink hair gave way to shades of blonde and black, as she confronted the crowd.  Interestingly, The Kills were joined on stage throughout the night by a pair of bandana-toting upright drummers.  The drummers actually added a nice touch, not only aesthetically, but audibly, even playing tambourines during the closing track.

This first seven-song portion of the show was ultimately my favorite, for several reasons.  Few concert experiences can hope to live up to the pure electric aura of staring eye to eye with Alison Mosshart as she belts the chorus of “The Heart Is A Beating Drum”.  The Kills bleed passion and energy, and it is nearly impossible to resist.

Next they played two old favorites, “Kissy Kissy” and “URA Fever”.  The latter of which received a roar of approval from the crowd, in response to those irresistible telephone beeps.  These tracks perfectly showcased the chemistry between Alison and Jamie.

One of the highlights of my night occurred unexpectedly, just a few songs into the show.  Jamie stepped to the edge of the stage, leaned, and tossed his guitar pick, which landed directly in my hand!

In a rare occurrence, the band was joined by a pair of background singers for “DNA” and “Satellite”. However, their impact was minimal, as Jamie’s wonderful guitar fuzz in “Satellite” stole the focus, lending itself well to the rocking crowd.  The Patsy Cline classic “Crazy”, which seemed to resonate well with the crowd, as did one of my favorites: “Baby Says”.

The slowed-down version of “Nail in My Coffin” seemed to throw everyone off momentarily, but did well to lead into “Black Balloon”.  The crowd did their best to clap along with the aforementioned drummers, eventually admitting defeat and fading into a muffled applause.

During “Tape Song” and “Cheap And Cheerful” the crowd erupted into a free-for-all mosh, as a hoard of individuals made a push to the front of the stage.  This rush resulted in a complete shuffle of positions, and I wound up being pushed back a row.  At the song’s conclusion, Jamie amusingly prompted the crowd, saying “If you're going to fight, please let everyone join in... don't do it while I’m playing guitar, it’s not fair.”  The Kills closed the set with “Pots and Pans”, and briefly exited the stage.

The emotional peak of the night was unquestionably “The Last Goodbye”, the first performance of the band’s encore.  Jamie quietly retreated to a keyboard with a bottle of wine in hand, as Alison took center stage.  The emotion in her voice was remarkable, and seemed to strike the crowd into awe.  They then continued the encore with the always popular and lively “Sour Cherry”, which injected another dose of adrenaline into the now delirious crowd.

The show closed with a pair of songs from The Kills first album, “Keep On Your Mean Side”.  Jamie did the honor of introducing the first track “Fuck The People”, describing it as “One of the first songs we ever wrote.  It’s a very profound and in-depth response to democracy and the complications of life.” As the night came to a close, everyone sang along, soaking up the final notes.

Finally, they played out the last tune of the night, “Monkey 23”.  At the song’s conclusion, Jamie and Alison crept to the edge of the stage and bowed, her glorious fray of pink hair lashing one final time.   The crowd surrendered one more massive roar, their thanks for an unforgettable night.

If you would like to hear The Kills 9:30 Club performance in its entirety, check out NPR’s “Live In Concert” feature here.

Tonight, The Kills will celebrate their tenth anniversary with a performance at Terminal 5 in New York City.  It's sure to be a memorable and emotional night for the band.  The show will be live-streamed by MTV at 10:30 ET, so be sure to tune in.  I know I’ll be watching.  Ten years is a long tenure for any band and should be deemed a great accomplishment.  To put it in perspective, The Beatles entire career spanned only ten years in total.  I want to thank Alison and Jamie for every song, every album, and every show they’ve played in those ten years.  There are no holes in their catalogue, something that’s true for few bands in this era.

Long live Hotel and VV.  Here’s to another ten years.

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