TVD Live: The Kills
10th Anniversary Show at Terminal 5, 2/11

The Kills are an angst-ridden trans-Atlantic two-piece consisting of the unlocked-at-the-hips Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart. They manage to exist as simultaneously retro and post-modern and are unclassifiably compared with post-punk, indie-blues, and the all-encompassing garage rock genres while referencing the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, the Nuggets anthology, Shirley Bassey, and traditional American blues.

Hince stands out for his fifty-year-old Hagstrom and Hofner gits, minimal guitar rig, and retro Boss guitar pedals while playing with both time and space through feedback loops, overdrive, fuzz, delays, and rhythmic sound distortions. His sound, filtered through vintage Fender and divided by thirteen amps into Marshall stacks, has both texture and tone in abundance. Only Cream on Disraeli Gears had more.

As with Y3, there is no bass, so Hince plays top heavy chords through a mixer and sometimes channels ersatz drums though a beat box. Moss—no, that is Hince’s wife—hart is the cool girl everyone wants to be, with a way-too-many cigarettes and tequilas voice and a dynamic stage presence that eschews blatant gender-stereotypes. Her unmistakably feminine presence elevates Mosshart beyond her more commercial contemporaries.

Together for ten plus years, The Kills sound has evolved from a medley of alternately hypnotic and jolting hooks (No Wow, Alphabet Pony) to riff- and tone-driven melodies interrogated by detached and mournful lyrics.

The Kills 10th anniversary concert at Terminal 5 in NYC on Saturday, February 11th, provided a musical summary of their evolution as a band. Front woman Mosshart promised an amazing show the day before when she issued a statement on the band’s Facebook page declaring she “loved (her) job.”

The Kills exceeded the sold-out crowd’s expectations. A mix of old and new fans turned out equipped with black balloons (honoring The Kills’ parting song—a sort of generational answer to the Doors’ “The End”) and Mosshart-inspired red hair.

The Kills deliberately feed on audience interplay and handed out commemorative booklets of the band’s art and photos at the beginning of the show. The band also made two photo booths available for fans to create their own black and white Mean Side-style photo strip memories.

BP Fallon spared us the poetry and opened by leading the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to The Kills. Hince and Mosshart then appeared and showed they know a thing or two about building a textured rhythm in song after song. Mosshart is even more frightening when she looks—well, happy—and on this occasion, the twisted Southern belle was beaming. Having dropped 15 lb. from the Kills’ Terminal 5 show in June, she sported pink and blonde hair like a beautiful, deranged morph of Helena Bonham Carter and My Little Pony.

During the show, she made a costume change from a so-thrift store looking Western print shirt to a leopard spotted silk blouse. Hince, no longer resembling a pasty mug-shot of himself, also slimmed down since last summer. Living with a waif will do that. Five red- masked drummers and two back-up singers added, if not a wall of sound, then a room-divider of sound. The set design was the familiar revolving purple and gold leopard spots. Appropriately for their anniversary show, the Kills referenced their entire catalog with songs from the Blood Pressures album emphasized.

The band opened with “No Wow” followed by a steady pulsating stream of their electrified bass-thumping tunes. “The Heart is a Beating Drum” sounded the better when played at a faster tempo than the more melodic studio version. After a less than intimate rendition of “Last Day of Magic,” the Kills slowed it down for a sweet they-still-love-each-other cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” with Hince and Mosshart seated together on speakers at the edge of the stage.

They then brought back the thudding energy with a rare rendition of “Back of a Shell.” Hince was relaxed and mimed his guitar as a machine gun on more than two occasions and at one point started strumming with the speaker stand. For the most part he played with the usual violent precision he’s known for but also caused the audience to “ahh” when he dedicated “Baby Says” to his wife. Mosshart departed from the usual aloof cool distance she maintains with the audience and was waving to the crowd.

The only thing missing from the night was the trademark sexual tension between Hince and Mosshart that formerly drove the band’s energy like an ill-fated musical elopement and appears to have developed into an “it-works-for-them” arrangement. The pair now seems more like brother and sister, as Hince has described their relationship, than the hypnotically fascinating couple of a few years past.

The show was more organized than Kills shows of the past but no less satisfying. Their back-up drummers even had choreographed stick flips and X poses. Mosshart’s enthusiasm was raw in true Kills’ style, though. She would not be contained just to singing and played either her archtop guitar or drums or both on almost all of the songs with her red hair constantly going vertical.

Both Hince and Mosshart encouraged the audience to join in on several of the songs, and the audience happily complied. The show lasted 1½ hours, ending with a five song encore. Hince and Mosshart each wished the crowd well, promising another ten years. They clearly love their jobs.

MTV simultaneously broadcast the concert live with The Hunters and JEFF the Brotherhood opening for the Kills.

No Wow
Future Starts Slow
The Heart Is a Beating Drum
Kissy Kissy
U R A Fever
Last Day of Magic
Back of a Shell
Black Balloon
Baby Says
You Don’t Own the Road
Tape Song
Pots & Pans
Last Goodbye
Nail In My Coffin
Sour Cherry
Fuck the People
Monkey 23

By Liz Maher for Stupefaction

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