In the run-up to the June release of their album, Ash & Ice, The Kills have embarked on a massive tour that takes them everywhere from Warsaw in Brooklyn to Warsaw in Eastern Europe. On Tuesday, April 12th, it brought them for the first of two nights at Brooklyn’s Warsaw (QRO venue review), to grind it out in the best way possible.
Touring before a new album is out can be tricky, as the band clearly wants to play the new songs, but the fans haven’t had a chance to hear them before (unless they were a music industry type at SXSW the month prior in Austin – QRO photos of The Kills at SXSW ’16). What’s more, while the new songs are still relatively untested live, the last set of new songs, from the last album (in this case, 2011’s Blood Pressures – QRO review), are getting a little long in the tooth to be called ‘new’.
But The Kills are all charm live & on stage. What’s interesting is that the duo of Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart are actually quite different up there. They may both be singer/guitarists, but Hince sticks largely to his guitar while only occasionally does Mosshart pick up her axe. Mosshart has that ‘bad-ass girl that you can’t even touch’ air, whether leaning forward with one foot on her monitor, or gyrating with her hand on her belt (and hair whipping about) like she’s riding a bucking bronco. Hince, meanwhile, is the English rock star playing to the crowd, including motioning for cheers. The contrast keeps them from being too on a pedestal or too needy.
New Ash & Ice songs naturally dominated the set list, but they were matched by pieces from 2008’s Midnight Boom, their commercial breakthrough, with only two from Blood and one each from their first two records, No Wow and Keep On Your Mean Side. The evening still started with one old number from each released album, opener “No Wow”, Midnight’s “U.R.A. Fever”, Blood’s “Heart Is a Beating Drum”, and Mean Side’s “Kissy Kissy”, kicking off the night’s fever. Interestingly, The Kills then did three new songs in a row (and four out of six), starting with the grinder “Hard Habit To Break”. The duo has always brought the hitting rhythm of the grind, and thankfully that’s not a habit they’ve broken. There’s also their more epic group near-haunt side, like on the subsequent “Heart of a Dog” and later new piece “Whirring Eye”, though doing three new pieces back-to-back-to-back meant that the final one of them, “Impossible Tracks”, struggled a little to stand out. Other new songs played included single “Doing It To Death”, a quintessential Kills grinder already, and the more teched “Siberian Nights”, which Hince admitted was the first time they’d ever played it live. Other old songs included Boom’s “Black Balloon” and “Baby Says”, plus “Tape Song” and “Sour Cherry” in the encore return before & after “Siberian”.
“Baby Says” actually opened with a false start, which brought laughs from the band and cheers from the audience. Mosshart might give the impression on stage of being a tough cowgirl who never gets the blues, but at that moment she laughed and smiled like the approachable girl next door Katie Holmes (pre-Cruise). The Kills can grind and charm.