Kills Don’t Miss a Beat at Brooklyn Steel on Friday Night
June 13, 2022
The Kills – Brooklyn Steel - June 10, 2022
Two decades in, the Kills are still so exhilarating as a live band, and the key to that — now, as before — is how effectively Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince weaponize their chemistry as musical partners: the former fiery, the latter icy. They’re both charismatic stage presences but also have a level of hip-kid remove that keeps you on the outside of their mojo, hot or cold, even as you’re fully in its thrall. You’re never going to get all the way in with them, as tantalizingly close as you think you’ll get. This is their show and they’ve got you where they want you.
The Kills returned Friday for the first of two highly anticipated concerts at Brooklyn Steel — two out of only a small handful of U.S. gigs they’ve done since before the onset of the pandemic. From the opening stabs of “No Wow,” off their much-loved 2005 album of the same name, Mosshart and Hince were all frisky business, delivering a 75–minute headlining performance that mined sparkling gems, rough diamonds and a few scraggly rocks from across their catalog. As usual, it was just the two of them and machines proxying the rest of the band. They didn’t have new music to share but the old stuff felt refreshed: A good chunk of the set list selection came from No Wow, whose 17th anniversary was marked this year with a Tchad Blake–assisted deluxe reissue.
What stood out through the expanse of the show, though, was how much the Kills took the acid-blues punk spirit of their breakthrough album, 2003’s Keep on Your Mean Side, and kept building on it over decades, incorporating metallic post-punk, Afropop, electro, folk-country and psychedelic garage among many different flavors that branch off the base sound without feeling like detours or disconnections. The highlights were from all of their sonics: “Murdermile” was stabbing, roiling indie rock; the tart “Kissy Kissy” was loaded with jangle; “Baby Says” was jagged and tender, committing to neither descriptor, “Rodeo Town” had moodiness to spare; “Hard Habit to Break” was rock-ribbed punchy; “Doing It to Death” skittered and strutted. It wasn’t all so aggressive, either. One of the biggest cheers of the night came for “The Last Goodbye,” sung by Mosshart as a sad waltz while Hince played keys. The set’s final sequence — “Pots and Pans” and “Monkey 23” — saw Mosshart strutting, sashaying, singing while lying on the stage, and then leaning against the stacks and then yielding fully to Hince to melt one song into another with an extended guitar break. They built a big, Steel-filling noise — almost incongruously given it’s just the two of them up there.
They were feeling it, for sure. After profusely thanking the audience, the duo went hard at the stomp-and-holler stuff for a 15-minute encore, including “Heart of a Dog,” “At the Back of the Shell,” with its snarling refrain of “It ain’t such a thrill,” the grungy “Future Starts Slow,” and then all the way back to 2003’s “Fried My Little Brains” to close it. The Kills mojo lives: You can’t hold it, but it’s going to hold you. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Photo courtesy of Ellen Qbertplaya | @Qbertplaya