It’s the penultimate song of The Kills’ set at Brixton Academy in London and Alison Mosshart, or VV, stands imposingly atop a monitor at the front of the stage. Her body pulsates to the beat and her red hair flails round her head as if it’s part of the mist and light which flickers around her. There’s no way to deny it: Mosshart is cool. So cool. Insanely cool. So – insert profanity of choice here – cool.
The young and fashionable crowd are pretty cool too. But not like the raucous songstress on stage. A lot of them are a little bit too cool to move or dance and the further back one goes in the sizeable academy, people are getting a little bit too cool to even listen. And that’s during the band they’ve paid to come and see.
As support act and country-folk-americana persona extraordinaire Josh T. Pearson takes to the stage, there’s only three or four people who even look up (and one of them is me), until he takes to the mic to drawl through his forest of facial hair: “This is a big fucking room for one man and a guitar”.
He has reason to worry. Pearson’s country laments feel as passionately powerful as ever, and should be as penetrating, but this doesn’t stop the majority of the crowd chewing the fat infuriatingly loudly through the set. Even when he shouts out his own name, “Josh T. Pearson!!” followed by “Buy my shit!” at the end of each song, nobody really takes much notice. This crowd is too hip – even for irony.
But The Kills have come prepared. There may be only two of them, but they’re here to put on a show. After ‘No Wow’, the duo power through ‘Future Start Slow’ with an intensity which gets even this crowd excited. They’ll stay that way too. As Jamie Hince’s dysmorphic guitar sound shakes the entire room, people can be as cool as they like, they can’t get around listening.
And the band keep things up. During ‘Heart Is A Beating Drum’ lights at the back of the stage suddenly shine to reveal four leather-jacketed men, their faces hidden by crimson bandannas and their arms instantly thundering in sequence at two floor-toms each, with drumsticks illuminated with striking blue light. They don’t add a huge amount to the sound, of course, the majority of the actual drumming is pre-recorded, but holding their sticks out in front of them in formation between beats, it can’t be denied that they add immeasurably to the spectacle.
It doesn’t stop here, either. ‘DNA’ and ‘Satellite’ see the appearance of a four-strong gospel choir, clad in red robes and swaying and clicking while Mosshart continues to pace around the stage like she’s locked in an invisible cage, and angry about it. It’s all pretty captivating, and Mosshart’s rockstar performance mostly covers up the fact that her snarling voice is not as powerful as it could be.
Hince’s ear-drum exploding guitar continues too, as the band play through the majority of new album, Blood Pressure, and a good few from Midnight Boom, their previous offering. ‘U.R.A. Fever’ allows Mosshart to show off her indomitable attitude to the maximum, and with no lacking in shrieking vocals, before the band drive into ‘Satellite’, which captures the bands aural swagger perfectly. ‘Black Balloon’ even brings the tone down to a rhythmic desolation, before ‘Cheap And Cheerful’ crashes back in with full force.
Back for an encore, Mosshart and Hince again bring things down with a melancholy ‘The Last Goodbye’, alone on the stage this time, sat close together on monitors, gazing into the front rows. They don’t quite pull this one off, and a fair few of the Saturday night crowd seem to have lost interest and are back to their yelled conversations, but a messy yet powerful ‘Sour Cherry’ brings most of them back in.
‘Monkey 23’ eventually brings everything to a close, and Mosshart and Hince invite back their drummers for a final bow, enjoying the screams from the most enthusiastic for a while before disappearing off stage. The chaotic sound may not have been perfect tonight, but that certainly won’t be what The Kills’ fans are talking about. They came for a show, and they got one.
Photo by Jason Williamson