It was around the time The Kills released their third studio album, the glorious Midnight Boom, that I first had the opportunity to see them live. At the age of 16, I thought they were just about the coolest thing in the world, this transatlantic duo with their drum machine and electric guitars, their lo-fi sound and their skinny jeans epitomising everything I was not and yet aspired to be. I asked my best friend at the time whether he would see them with me at Brimingham’s Carling Academy. Not sharing my love for The Kills, he declined. Rather than go alone, I decided not to go at all and, along with that time I suffocated a worm, this has remained one of my biggest regrets. Until last night.
Waiting in the crowd at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I had the palpable sense that I was righting a wrong. The atmosphere was electric, an eclectic mix of fans packing out the venue. Noel Fielding watched from the right hand balcony. A Rihanna song played over the speakers. I stood with my friend George and wondered whether almost ten years on, I would still be as enamoured by the grungy cool of The Kills as I was back then.
Taking to the stage half an hour after their advertised time, The Kills tore through their back catalogue like a hurricane. Opening with ‘Heart Of A Dog’ from their latest album Ash & Ice, Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart thrashed and headbanged their way through a collection of deep cuts and fan favourites that sent the punters wild. Their cocky swagger has only intensified over time, Mosshart and Hince taking it in turns to take centre stage, squaring up to the crowd, pouring everything into a performance that was beautifully chaotic from start to finish.
Sticking mostly to the more electric, rambunctious tracks from their past five albums, The Kills hammered home the likes of ‘U.R.A. Fever’, ‘Tape Song’, ‘Love Is A Deserter’ and ‘Baby Says’ in a riot of jagged guitar riffs and punky choruses, often melting into long, messy guitar breakdowns as Hince thrashed away over a clatter of drums and feedback. The few slower songs that got an outing were among the most memorable, there being a real goosebumps moment when Hince’s wailing guitar kicked in on ‘Black Balloon’.
Celebrating 15 years of The Kills, this was certainly a setlist designed for diehard fans. Composed largely of album tracks and deep cuts, The Kills picked a varied and, at times, slightly confusing, array of tracks for their anniversary year. Singles such as ‘Cheap and Cheerful’, ‘Satellite’ and ‘Fuck The People’ were given the elbow in favour of the likes of ‘Pots and Pans’ and ‘Monkey 23′. Those unfamiliar with the full breadth of The Kills’ discography may have been left a little perplexed, but for the majority here, it was more than enough. That said, a couple more of their defining singles wouldn’t have gone a miss.
What emerged from The Kills’ 15th anniversary celebration was the huge amount of affection Hince and Mosshart clearly have for each other. Though the pair remained mostly tight-lipped on stage, the warmth they exuded not only for their fans, but for each other, was tangible. Whispering in each others’ ears, sharing the occasional peck and embracing each other as the crowd erupted into rapturous applause at the end of a tantalising, raucous set, it was clear that the two are just as close as when they were exchanging tapes via international snail mail. Tuesday’s performance had the atmosphere of a true celebration, full of energy, nostalgia and, above all, an overflowing of genuine, heartfelt love.