The Kills are sometimes dismissed for their illusions of rock and roll grandeur. Sometimes they’re dismissed for their lack of originality, with purists citing that Washington DC’s Royal Trux did the whole boy-girl, minimalist noise rock thing first. But you’ll rarely hear complaints about their live shows, for here are two people- guitar playing, drum machine-manning Jamie Hince and hellcat front woman Alison Mosshart- who have more than an idea of how to make a live show work.
Hince broods and glares, Mosshart flicks her raven hair from side to side, arching and grimacing to the emission of the drum machine. She’s been known to wail and climb stage furniture and writhe underneath Hince as he looms over her, guitar in hand. But none of that occurred tonight, despite the visible appetite fro such shenanigans from the crowd. Mosshart has always elicited a certain excitement from her audience and any time she lifts her hair from her face or even faces the crowd full on, the people of Emo’s wave and scream their approval. They are chomping at the bit for what Mosshat is capable of but they are left disappointed. From the initial rush of adulation when the Kills take to the stage, you can feel the interest drooping as it becomes apparent they really are going to stick to mostly new songs, only to be momentarily revived when they recognise the likes of 2008’s Sour Cherry. At one point Mosshart says: “you’re a good crowd… a good crowd,” and not only is she right but she really seems to mean it. Perhaps this is why Hince apologises for mainly playing new material, shortly before announcing the last song will be, yep, a new one, a slow burner of acidic riffs and plodding beat called Pots and Pans.
Halfway through the set two men to my left bicker about whether to stay or go to see TV On The Radio. Eventually they decide to split, and the man who stays bids goodbye to his buddy with a rueful wave of the devil horns. He probably would have appreciated the opportunity to wave those horns with real passion at some point during the gig. Then again, SXSW is a “showcase” event, and why not play songs from an album out next month, even if the crowd want the original hits. There’s a Kills lyrics which simply goes “howling at the future”, and it manages to capture the Kills’ quiet roar of 1-2-3 rock so well. Their music has always been a unremitting up yours to fashion and trends, so we shouldn’t expect them to go playing to the crowd’s expectations just yet.
- Rosie Swash