The Kills at First Avenue, 5/5/11
If film exists of Thursday night's show turned in by the Kills, it's something that other bands should view immediately, study, and commit to memory. It unfolded exactly how a show in this vein should -- and even with the few glitches it had along the way it was perfect, almost despite itself.
The Kills, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince (who record under the monikers VV and Hotel, respectively), began their set with the slow-burning "No Wow" from their 2005 album of the same name, with Mosshart (clad in a t-shirt emblazoned with the visage of Dillinger Four's Patrick Costello) perched atop a monitor, Hince plucking at the guitar pick-free, the drum machine clicking away the entire time. Coupled with the salt-in-a-wound vibe from "Future Starts Slow" from their new Blood Pressures, it was obvious that this show was going to cook from start to finish.
As they broke into the blues-punk "Kissy Kissy" and all it's damaged beauty, it started to become fairly astonishing that there were only two people, two guitars (sometimes just one) and a machine creating the veritable monsoon of noise from stage. Had you closed your eyes it would have seemed like walls of effects boxes and several people should have been responsible. The overall effect of the songs is something akin to polished sand: it's not as rough as it could be, but it's not quite as smooth as glass is by any means. The Kills are a chunky, jagged mix of garage, punk, blues, and at times '80s-era goth. However, you can't see the seams and in the end they blow every other duo currently operating (and even most that are now defunct) far, far out of the water. This is the kind of music that makes you feel like you could move mountains with a gentle shove.
By the time "U R A Fever" came along in the set the crowd was sweaty and smiling everywhere you looked. People were imitating Mosshart's headswings and generally wild stage demeanor, even within the small spaces they had in the sardine-can-tight sold-out show. There are people who look at music as a sort of religion, and maybe that's true to some extent, but to many fans of the Kills, Mosshart is effectively Jim Jones. She is a messiah and they would follow her to an untimely death if she'd ask them.
Photos by Tony Nelson
As the 50+ minute set--punctuated by a three-song encore that included the downtempo "The Last Goodbye" and full-throttle version of "Pots & Pans"--wound down, I caught a glimpse of a woman on the side of the stage, behind security. Nobody else was near her; she was in her own world, shaking her hair around, occasionally throwing her fists in the air, and it occurred to me why people love the Kills like they do. Some bands make you feel more lonely when you're alone, but with VV and Hotel you're never in solitude, whether you're just feet from the rest of the crowd or sitting alone in your living room with the lights off and headphones on. Not many bands can say that of themselves.
Critic's Bias: I had gone into the show with no expectations and was absolutely blown away by the experience. I'll never miss another Kills show again if I can help it.
The Crowd: Overall, as happy and polite as I've ever seen at a sold out show at First Avenue.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I had to give a work presentation today about my experience at SXSW, I should have just made it about the free top-shelf liquor."
Random Notebook Dump: Other bands should stop being duos, they'll never be this good.