Gig Review :: The Kills at The Observatory

photo by me (hey, I’m a writer, not a photographer)

The Kills
The Observatory, Santa Ana, California
August 9, 2012

Some bands are great on record, albums so good they are on our constant rotation, played song-by-song, literally linearly, every melody a story. Often these album rich bands disappoint when seen live. Maybe they lack the presence and personality expected, perhaps the magic seems missing, or the real musical impact was brought to life by the trappings of modern recorded music, auto-tuned and adjusted to near perfection, a product more than a (press) play.  Every so often, though, a band you have loved on album takes hold of you, in-person, and blows you away, each song soaring and expanding, and exploding out of the constraints of an album, each song becoming something so much more, something electric and very LIVE.

Thursday night, at The Observatory, The Kills were that band.

Let me set the stage, the start, so to speak. The house lights went down, the stage lit up to expose a leopard-print backdrop and four drum kits. As the drum beats began, Alison Mosshart, donning a fedora, slinked on stage and began to pace like a jungle cat stalking her prey. The drums persisted; steady beats delivered by darkly clothed girls and boys with half-disguised their faces, puppet-like arms going up and down, near mechanically, thumping to her cat-like pace. Jamie Hince joined her, covered in shadows and leather, guitar in-hand, held almost like a weapon.  As No Wow starts up all I could think was hang on tight, here we go.

The show was incredible. Every song seemed to top the last, the building of the drums and guitar enveloping the audience so completely that I felt everything in my chest, in my heartbeat, in the pulse of the blood in my veins. Alison was a kinetic ball of energy, animalistic in her movement, feline, feral, non-stop action. Her movements, the way she would bend her body back and forth, were raw and almost carnal. When she sang “my little tornado, my little hurricane”, lyrics from the song Last Days of Magic, I could not help but think that is her, she is a force of nature.

Jamie was the hunter to her lioness, at times holding his guitar like a gun, pointing right at her, tilting back and releasing. His voice was deep, dark and sensual like strong coffee with a shot of whiskey. I was taken aback at what a presence he held, different than Alison’s, but equally as compelling. Their chemistry shot currents across that stage, again I say electric; it is hard to believe that these two are not a two off-stage, as well as on.

My vote for best songs from the actual show were Black Balloon, of course (a long-time favorite of mine that I was hoping to hear), Future Starts Slow (favorite of Jamie’s singing, especially the lyrics “you can blow what’s left of my right mind”), Baby Says and Pull a U.

The encore, Alison coming to the front of the stage, seeming stark and unexpectedly awkward, breaking out the band’s new single Last Goodbye. This was a breathtaking moment, a chance to hear just how damn good Alison’s voice is, accompanied by a slightly manic old-timey sounding melody, giving the break-up ballad a ghostly touch of the macabre. Afterwards, the shy smile from Alison to the audience was precious, and I mean that in the most non-demeaning of ways. After all of her howls and wails, predatory snaps and snake-like slinks, for her to share this quiet moment with her was quite meaningful.

The band returned, as did the pulsating drums, streaking lights, and racing guitars as Jamie and Alison sang a feverish Pull a U, a crowd-pleasing Fuck the People, and a vulnerable and confessional feeling Monkey 23 which they seemed to sing to one another, Alison sitting on the stage crooked smiling up to Jamie and his guitar. This moment gave me chills, and that sting to the eye feeling, teasing at some of my internal stories and scars. Alison stood up and reached a hand out to Jamie, the interlocked fingers and stepped to the front of the stage, taking a bow as the audience howled and clapped. The rest of the band came forward, faces revealed, applause once more. As Alison and Jamie embraced and walked off-stage I had the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and oh my stars, I want more.

Last Day of Magic (live at The Observatory) :: The Kills
video from faketaper

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