Live: The Kills Thrust And Parry At Terminal 5


The Kills
Terminal 5
Friday, April 29

Better than: The Kate and William Lifetime original movie, in a way.

The glorious bend of the Kills’ albums is that they sound scarcely contained: recorded in flash floods of blues-rock jamming, a panicked production assistant chases singer Alison Mosshart ’round the studio as she kicks chairs and hurls glassware. Guitarist Jamie Hince sighs at his extroverted muse, knowing a painting in an attic grows more demure every day, breathing smoky air deeply as he improvises another delta-punk solo. It is a reckless, snarling, forgotten week committed to tape.

So their live show certainly faces a tall order–not that they’d admit it and betray their swagger–and it’s shifted as such, on par with their recently released fourth album, Blood Pressures. Once two scrubby, underexposed kids hurtling their bodies at each other in Coachella side tents, there’s new poise to their performances, as they showed Terminal 5 on the night of the royal wedding. (Which they didn’t acknowledge; doing so’d also be a betrayal of unspoken High Street indifference.) Hince on the left, pouring broad hooks over a beat machine and supplying more than enough instrumentation alone (who needs a bass player or drummer? What is this, Earth, Wind & Fire?), Mosshart pulling up right with twitchy, propulsive dancing, gauzy fabric layers splayed against the mic stand, a feral break in her arena-commanding trill. The bubbling sexual tension is still there, but it’s muted; the pair’s converging at center stage seems to unite two halves, not threaten the seams of one effort, as before. The brisk clip of their songs and Hince’s stellar playing does not wane–it all grows static at times–but Mosshart is spellbinding. She smiled more last summer, pressed up against Jack White in the Dead Weather, but her confidence is unflinching.

The smart opener charms the crowd–“No Wow,” title track of 2005’s superb second album, a brittle, streetwise assertion in vein of the rest of the setlist. “Tape Song,” on 2008’s Midnight Boom, dips in enthusiasm; they sound less than impressed after emitting Blood Pressure‘s taut single “Satellite,” but a ballad interlude would serve the set well, because the yelps are disserviced when delivered so relentlessly. The crowd must wait, and be surprised, by one in the audacious encore: “Last Goodbye,” a Blood Pressures track with vulnerability unlike anything the pair’s allowed before. It’s devastating.

They say little to us, or each other–Hince pauses to tell off a man pushing a woman, snarling near-indecipherably in his curt English drawl. Mosshart hugs him, thanks us, and gives forth “Fried My Little Brains,” a spectacularly catchy, acerbic highlight of 2003’s debut, Keep on Your Mean Side. If she initially looked exposed from the ballad, she shook it off quickly, electrifying the song with new intent. She wore the sadness well while it lasted, though.

Critical bias: Alison Mosshart is my spirit animal.

Overheard: “I forgot my Kate and William masks, fuck.”

Random notebook dump: There’s an inordinate amount of beer raining down from the balconies tonight, even for Terminal 5.

“No Wow”
“Future Starts Slow”
“Heart is a Beating Drum”
“Kissy Kissy”
“URA Fever”
“Tape Song”
“Baby Says”
“You Don’t Own the Road”
“Sour Cherry”

“The Last Goodbye”
“Pots and Pans”
“Fried My Little Brains”