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Live Review and Photos: The Kills and Cold Cave, May 13, 2011, The Music Box – Los Angeles, CA



To say The Kills were a revelation at their Friday night show in Hollywood may seem a bit much, but only if you haven’t seen The Kills before. I hadn’t. In fact, I was a little late in showing The Kills much interest at all. But, though The Kills and opener Cold Cave put on energetic and enthralling sets, I have a feeling this was not an exception and more like the rule for their live performances. Look across festival bills for this year and you see The Kills popping up everywhere. There is a reason for this: the band is a crowd-pleaser. Singer (and sometimes guitarist) Alison Mosshart never stops moving while on stage and guitarist (and sometimes singer) Jamie Hince is a clear anchor to their sound and Mosshart’s tendency to go over-the-top.

This was all news to me.

Opener Cold Cave, riding the crest of positive reviews for their latest, Cherish The Light Years, has a reputation that I was aware of. Namely, that they can be a bit of a snooze on stage. But, Cold Cave put their critics in their place with an electrifying set that saw the band emerge from both the metaphorical and literal darkness and cast light onto their strengths. Opening with their best song yet, “The Great Pan Is Dead,” frontman Wesley Eisold moved his microphone from behind his synthesizer to the front and center of the stage, letting his body writhe to the song’s exclamations. Adding to the manic nature of the performance was Dominick Fernow, who screamed along the songs without aid of a microphone and often retreated further behind his synthesizer to spin, jump, and flail when the music overtook him. In the end, the group’s 40-minute set was anything but a snooze, with “Villains Of The Moon” standing tall as a particular standout.

For The Kills’ set, the audience (which included Marilyn Manson with a prime seat in the balcony) settled in to have their socks rocked off. The Kills complied. But, the rocking was not without the help of additional lighting and a leopard backdrop that helped provide the necessary drama and ambience. See, the one difficulty in The Kills’ live show is that their music is fairly straight-ahead, and it seems it would be difficult to pull-off in the light of day or to a non-inebriated crowd. In short, it is barroom music, and the dramatic lighting rigs, the fact that it was a Friday night in Hollywood, and the attitude of the band all helped sell the music, never making the sounds take a back-seat, but, rather, highlighting them and giving them the ample chance to shine.

The set saw a pretty even mix of old and new, with opener “No Wow” and highlight “Kissy Kissy” inserted to please long-time fans. But, it was easy to see that the new material had the band’s heart, with early set appearances of Blood Pressures standouts “Future Starts Slow” and “Heart Is A Beating Drum” quickly putting the crowd in the frame of mind that this was indeed an album tour and the new record would be well represented.

Though backing singers did appear for “URA Fever,” the two-person setup of The Kills was the dominant lineup of the group. This made for a level of intimacy between the two principals, with Mosshart resting her head on Hince’s shoulder for the conclusion of “Heart Is A Beating Drum” and the two performing “Kissy Kissy” to each other, with little regard for the audience. Otherwise, the show was all for the crowd. Mosshart flung her hair in all directions, reached out to the fans in the front row, and added an appropriate amount of sexuality to every word she would utter.

And though the set would eventually end on the same rocking note that kept the entire set afloat, the encore’s opening number, “The Last Goodbye,” saw The Kills slow things down for a rare bit of tenderness. Still, Mosshart couldn’t be fully contained by the song’s ballad nature, and walked circles around her microphone during the instrumental breaks like a hyper-active child. Yeah, The Kills have energy to spare. But, especially in the live atmosphere, this is a great thing, as it makes for a set that is not only pleasant to the ears, but also a blast to watch. The Hold Steady has long had the unofficial title of World’s Best Bar Band, but The Kills might have something to say about that.

Setlist:

No Wow
Future Starts Slow
Heart Is A Beating Drum
Kissy Kissy
U.R.A. Fever
D.N.A.
Satellite
Tape Song
Baby Says
You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No) / Steppin’ Razor
Pull A U
You Don’t Own The Road
Sour Cherry

The Last Goodbye
Pots & Pans
Fried My Little Brains


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