The Kills Sparkle at Packed First Avenue Performance


Photos by John Oakes; Words by Langen Goldstien

At this point in my concert-going career, it’s rare for a band that I’ve been listening to for years to come through town that I haven’t seen live. I promise that’s not me trying to flex; it’s just the truth. I’ve seen so many bands live that, at this point, I constantly have to refer back to this blog to see if I’ve seen someone before, and no matter how much digging I did yesterday and this morning, I can’t seem to find any coverage of The Kills. I was so excited to change that on Monday night.

Before I get into the wonder that was The Kills’ live set, let’s talk about the opening act The Paranoyds. This group instantly had the entire First Avenue mainroom captivated by their sound and performance alike. Sonically, The Paranoyds lean into a bit of a fuzzy rock n’ roll vibe but with clean vocals that swoon you into submission in this very powerful yet unspoken way. I’ll be honest: there were no parts of the instrumentation that really stood out to me as epic or anything like that. At one point, I even jotted down a note that the instrumentation had become repetitive, but it was all just so perfectly curated and full of life. I do distinctly remember one of the more “repetitive” parts where the four members just played the same pattern over and over again, but the way they made that pattern grow was an absolute work of magic.

Whether you not you fell victim to the enchantment of The Paranoyds’ music, you surely fell in love with their connections. The first and most notable connection was that between the members. Although not blood-related, the four members had this way of coming off as siblings. It’s a bit of a hard thing to describe, but they were all so in sync, and all of their voices and notes they were playing on their respective instruments were so perfectly in time with everything else going on. On top of that, I feel like there were many silent nods between members to signify the next note or who was going to speak between songs. Like the music, I felt like this had me completely entranced.

The other connection was that with the audience. This band may not have been whirling around the stage or encouraging people in the audience to move around, yet they had this very strong connection with everyone in the nearly sold-out venue. I may have never heard of this band prior to their performance on Monday night, yet as they were leaving the stage and making room for the headliner, I couldn’t help but feel like I had just seen one of my all-time favorite bands perform. It was an odd feeling but one that will definitely keep The Paranoyds in my mind for the foreseeable future.

The Paranoyds were great (clearly) but I was at First Avenue on Monday night for one reason and on reason only- The Kills. The Kills are an English-American duo that dates back to 2001. I don’t remember how I got my hands on their 2003 album ‘Keep On Your Mean Side’, but I did, and it changed my life. Okay, dramatic, per usual, but seriously, that album was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was fuzzy and intense while having this almost subtle quality to it. I don’t want to use the word boring, but honestly, I can’t think of a better word. Their sound was somehow hollow yet full of life at the same time on that album, and although I didn’t stick with the band through their following releases and had only briefly checked out their newest album, ‘God Games,’ I still revert back to that influential 2003 album often. I was stoked to see what this duo could do with it live and see how their unique sound would translate to a concert.

The crazy thing about The Kills is they are just a duo, and that’s how they performed on Monday night. I honestly don’t know why this surprised me so much, but part of me really wanted a full band. The drum sounds in their music definitely have an electronic sound to them, so it wasn’t surprising that they were done by a track as they performed, yet I just have to wonder what it would have been like for them to have a live drummer. I hear they have done that at past performances, but that was not the case for First Avenue. That being said, there was no lack of energy throughout their set. I watched in amazement as vocalist Alison “VV” Mosshart and guitarist Jamie “Hotel” Hince played song after song while never letting the energy falter. Even during their “slower” songs or songs that really don’t have a bunch of sonic depth to them, these two musicians performed with a sense of ferocity that I could only dream of experiencing night after night.

As mentioned, I really only know the debut album from The Kills, so I was left in a bit of a world of wonder throughout the majority of their twenty-song set. That was on me for not keeping up with the band but I also liked the edge that this gave my night. Don’t get me wrong, I sang along (in my heart) to the songs I knew, but as I stood there taking in the songs I didn’t, I couldn’t help but continue to “sing” along. Sure, I didn’t know the words, but I knew the vibe as it’s a strong one when it comes to The Kills, and it made an otherwise unfamiliar set feel like home. I don’t think many bands can pull that off but The Kills pulled it off perfectly, again, due to the fact that, when you hear a The Kills song, you know it’s a The Kills song.

I got to cross The Kills off of my bucket list on Monday night, and I couldn’t be happier about it. It was everything I wanted and more while also being nothing I expected. I understand that statement, and the majority of this post is riddled with contradictions, but, long story short, it was an amazing show, and I hope I don’t have to wait long before I experience it again.