Saturday 9 April 2011

Review: The Kills

Let's start this review with some honesty: I am bias. Jamie and Alison of The Kills belonged to my close circle of friends when I lived in London and we all lived on toast with Marmite and nut roast back then. And even though we lead very different lives these days, I do share memories of birthdays, gigs, barbeques, scrabble and pub nights with table football and darts with this duo.

Despite this, I am a fan of The Kills as the band that they are. I would be a fan if I didn't know them personally. Two-pieces often convey a special energy and The Kills are the epitome of a duo which feeds on that energy. While their music is minimalist at times, it is also very powerful yet personal. And when performed live, the audience is mesmerised by the energy and connection between Alison and Jamie.

The Kills had been idle as a band for a couple of years, with Alison being part of Jack White's project The Dead Weather, and this was the first time that they performed in Berlin since that break. Has much changed?

I arrived at the venue at 7pm and was taken aback by the crowd waiting to get in. Gigs in Berlin never start before 9pm. As it turned out, these were die-hard fans, waiting to get an autograph and to reserve their spaces in front of the stage. A quick scan of the kids in line lead me to believe that hardly anyone waiting was over 20 years old. And this was a surprise. When The Kills performed at Postbahnhof two years ago, the audience was rather mature. 

Thanks to my Access All Areas pass, I could watch the performance from a balcony at the back of Huxley's. Huxley's is a large venue and I'm a small person, so I was grateful that I was able to see from high up. A side note on the pictures I take: I try to take pictures that convey the feeling of my particular position during the show. Most of the time this means that the pictures aren't particularly artistic or necessarily clear but that you get a rough idea of where I was and what it looked like from the position I was in. At this gig, I realised for the first time that my concept is not working. I had a very good view from where I was watching but the picture looks as if I couldn't see a thing unless I had a lorgnette or some binoculars.

The performance itself was very professional, as you would expect from an experienced band like The Kills. They played the songs from the new album "Blood Pressures", which are a bit more bluesy yet poppy than older numbers, as well as some of the popular hits from the previous album. Where I was standing the sound didn't impress, with most special effects like an additional keyboard or distorted vocals not transporting at all. However, later quizzing others, I was told that if you stood in the main crowd the sound was fine. The interaction between Jamie and Alison was intense as always but came across a little more studied than on previous occasions when I had seen them and I guess you could expect that after all these years.

I don't think there is such a thing as a bad Kills concert and if you haven't seen them before, I recommend that you do. But I also didn't feel quite the magic I felt a few years ago. I cannot tell whether this is because I have seen them many times and it's not a suprise to me personally anymore or whether it's something else. But I guess, everyone in the audience loved The Kills as much as they had always done, and I was happy to hang out afterwards at a small Neukölln bar with a group of friends that I don't see often. But only once we had made it past another group of teenagers waiting to get autographs at 1am...

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