Live Review

The Kills are still a streamlined rock’n’roll force of nature on the opening London leg of their UK tour

1st May 2024

More than half a decade since their last full UK run, the Anglo-American pair remain undiminished.

‘Cool’ is inherently subjective, but it would be hard to find a person on the planet who would not bestow the adjective upon Alison Mosshart. In her twenty year tenure as the vocal half of The Kills, she and guitarist Jamie Hince have witnessed the entire music landscape change; where once, their use of a drum machine rather than a live body on stage was a cause for comment, these days it barely raises an eyebrow. Yet throughout, Mosshart has been an emblem of a certain type of arty rock’n’roll - the kind that surrounded Lou Reed, or emanates from Patti Smith; in other words, the best kind.

Kicking off their first full UK tour since before the pandemic at London’s suitably art deco Troxy, in support of recent album ‘God Games’ - itself, their first studio record since 2016’s ‘Ash & Ice’ - it’s this sense of proper, grit’n’guts spirit that feels gloriously tangible from the moment the pair walk out. It’s in the way that Hince manages to wrangle the sort of grizzled slabs of noise from his guitar that hit straight to the guts; how Mosshart stalks the stage, in turns dropping to her knees and bending double as though she’s been punched in the stomach by the song itself. If all this sounds a little theatrical, then it’s because, despite their minimal numbers and obvious lack of artifice, there’s nonetheless an undeniable sense of drama to the way the pair perform; the way they see music as a high stakes, extreme emotional sport.

The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London

‘God Games’ takes up the bulk of the setlist, and fits easily into their back catalogue. ‘Love And Tenderness’ is all swagger, while ‘New York’ brings the shadowy night time streets of the city into the belly of London. Nonetheless, the biggest cheers of the night are reserved for cuts from 2008’s ‘Midnight Boom’ (the sordid prowl of ‘U.R.A Fever’; the clipped clap of ‘Black Balloon’), and its 2011 follow-up ‘Blood Pressures’. Ahead of the latter’s ‘Baby Says’, Mosshart takes a moment to stand centre stage and soak up the cheers before beginning the track’s tender missive, while ‘Future Starts Slow’ remains a career highlight that showcases how underrated Hince is as a truly visceral, instinctive guitar player.

Bringing out a pair of backing singers to flesh out recent album cut ‘Kingdom Come’ and oldie ‘DNA’, you can appreciate the attempt to level up their quintessentially skeletal set up. But in some ways, the extra bodies on stage feel almost like an imposition on the longstanding duo; as a band who’ve always made an asset of their limitations, whose one-on-one chemistry is established and palpable, there’s really no need for any additional bells and whistles.

As gnarly latter set highlight ‘Doin’ It To Death’ - a song they’ve previously described as being about “staying hungry for the things you were born to do” - spotlights, Mosshart and Hince have always been musicians clearly in this game for the long haul. Where, in the beginning, they were surrounded by peers, two decades in they embody a primal spirit that feels rare now. It’s all the more reason to hold The Kills close and soak up the magic.

The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London The Kills, Troxy, London

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