The Kills Appear Fierce, Fresh at Chicago’s Metro
It’s a bold claim, but here it goes: The Kills’ Sunday night (Aug. 2) gig at Chicago’s intimate Metro – billed as an official Lollapalooza after-show despite the band’s absence from the weekend’s lineup – was more gripping than 80 percent of performances over the course of the fest’s three days, which wrapped just over two hours prior to the group’s 12:15AM start time.
A few fans who’d spent the weekend romping around Grant Park were surely dragging their feet by this time, but Alison Mosshart (“VV”) and Jamie Hince (“Hotel”) – backed by two percussionists – appeared fresh and fierce during a career-spanning set that included three new songs from a still-untitled follow-up to 2014 fourth full-length, Blood Pressures.
They wore wide, twin grins as they strutted and shredded, respectively, through intro “U.R.A. Fever,” and when Mosshart picked up her beauty of a Gretsch guitar for “Heart is a Beating Drum,” Hince fed hungrily off the exultant energy of her constant twirling and flailing, channeling it for his electrifying leads on the blues-y “Kissy Kissy.”
Amid an overarching air of gritty heaviness, following numbers “DNA” and “Satellite” reminded fans that the duo has a penchant for impossibly catchy pop hooks – both have memorable, sing-along-worthy choruses and the latter track’s “oooohhh ohhhhhhh” refrain evoked a crowd response that was nothing short of anthemic. (Later on, the back-to-back run of the lighthearted “Baby Says” and the marked electro-beat of new song “Doin’ it to Death” evoked similar songwriting sensibilities).
The band’s sinister side resurfaced for older favorites “Tape Song,” “No Wow” and encore-ender “Fried My Little Brains” – Mosshart’s inimitable wail was mightiest as she and Hince faced off nearly cheek-to-cheek to end the second of that trio. But the band’s sound took an even darker turn during a pair of new songs. “Impossible Tracks” melded a muted, metal-inspired riff with intimidating yet thrilling screeches from Mosshart, and the steady, down-tempo beat behind “Echo Home” was the perfect backbone for her breathy vocals and his intermittent solos, which erupted from the triple-pickups of his custom Hofner like sonic cries of pain.
While those fifth-album forays were wonderfully wicked, the show’s most arresting moment came with the stripped-down swamp-stomp of “Monkey 23,” which Hince finished off with a flurry of slide guitar played partly using Mosshart’s mic stand instead of the standard finger sheath. Even if the new record veers toward experimental complexity, these varied vignettes in their live shows will continually recall the Kills’ initial kinetic core-spark: just two people, myriad musical visions.