It comes as a bit of a shock when people slam into you for the first time after a dozen songs. That's exactly what happened last night when My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult dialed up "After the Flesh." From the start of the sample and the beat, everyone recognized the song immediately and reacted with crazed abandon. It was the only time in the show when things got a little gnarly down front. That track is one of the most aggressive tracks in the act's repertoire, so that's probably why.
The show started with a dimly lit stage and Mimi Star playing a simple bassline that served as a foundation for what turned out to be "TV Sista." Groovie Mann sauntered on to stage after the rest of his bandmates got the music going. He was dressed in all leathers, like Jim Morrison, with sunglasses to top off the look. Pulling from the breadth of its career, except for Death Threat, TKK treated us to a vivid and powerful reminder of the range of music it wrote from the very beginning.
Sure, the production on the records is excellent, but nothing replaces having Groovie Mann gesture dramatically or rearing back to let out an accent on a lyric as the band swells the music. When the band performed "Badlife," it was striking to realize that song came out nineteen years ago because its amalgamation of lounge, disco and electro pop sounded even more relevant given current trends in music. As the world caught up again to post-punk, synth pop and new wave in the last decade and a half, it's probably not long before TKK's take on industrial creeps back into the popular consciousness in a more fully-realized way than it has already.
Naturally when "Sex On Wheelz" started up with a tease of a guitar line, people cheered and sang along. Before that, Beki Colada joined the band on stage for "Easy Girl" and a bar was set up on stage left with a bartender wearing a glittery, red devil mask. After that, she joined Groovie Mann center stage to share lead vocal duties, most prominently on the Bomb Gang Girlz's song, "Sez Who." She really added another layer of sensuality to music that already has plenty of it, and she could hold her own with Mann vocally, and her dance skills matched his own fluid grace.
It came as no surprise that the band played "Days of Swine and Roses," but getting to see it in person once again made it more obvious how fun a song it is, and with Star's bass work alongside the persistent electronic bass notes augmenting the low end together, it hit a little harder. During "After the Flesh," lights flashed on stage to highlight the frantic and nearly disjointed pace of the music, and Groovie Mann gestured like an urban wizard as he and Colada played off each other both vocally and in their movements. When the song ended, Mann thanked us and the place went dark as TKK left the stage.
The band came back on and treated us to an older song, "Glamour is a Rocky Road," followed by a thrilling rendition of "Kooler Than Jesus" that morphed directly into "Cuz It's Hot," a song from I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits. Mann felt so moved by the enthusiasm of the people that he lingered on stage a moment before the lights and music came on to let us know this colorful and theatrical show had come to an end.
Keep reading for more on the opening acts, plus Setlist and Critic's Notebook
The entire show began with Left Spine Down. Admittedly, when these guys opened for ohGr last fall at the Bluebird, they made you kind of wonder if you'd stepped out of a show and on to the set of some B-movie where the cast was dancing a little too enthusiastically to a mediocre band, as kAINE D3L4Y tried a little too hard to win the crowd over. This time, there was little of that, but it didn't seem so much like these guys were some band stapled together for a movie role.
Something has happened in the last ten months or so to make this band seem more solid, more real and, well, more enjoyable, but it sure wasn't the cartoonish cover of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control." A song about a girl suffering from a neurological disorder meant to sound disjointed probably doesn't benefit from being rocked up. The crime scene tape that ran the entire length of the stage about three feet up was a bit much, too -- gimmicks like that gain some people's attention and turns others off. This time out it was fifty-fifty on the works-doesn't work scale. But mostly it distracted from a band that has really become a lot better in the last year.
Galen Waling was already impressive behind the kit, while Jeremy Inkel's skill with electronics still proved that his time spent in Front Line Assembly made sense and Matt Girvan's guitar wizardry even kicked things up a notch. And what do you know? Maybe D3L4Y is still the asshole he announces he is on stage, but he's learned to channel it a lot more productively and without a conveying as much of a sense of repellent desperation. For this show, the guy was even likeable and his self-deprecating humor didn't get too out of hand.
The set ended with one of the band's better songs, "Nothing to Fear." Sure, it sounded like 1996 called and wanted its music back, but this time, you didn't feel like the set had lasted so long you wondered why you were at the show anymore. And people honestly cheered this time, and no one went up front to give D3L4Y the finger during most of the band's set. That's major progress by anyone's standards.
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult Bluebird Theater - Denver, CO 09/19/12
01. TV Sista 02. Bad Life 03. Rivers of Blood, Years of Darkness 04. Gateway to Hell 05. Easy Girl 06. Sex on Wheelz 07. Cadillac Square 08. Sez Who 09. Apollo 69 10. Days of Swine and Roses 11. The Untouchable Class 12. Sexy Sucker 13. After the Flesh 14. Glamour is a Rocky Road 15. Kooler Than Jesus 16. Cuz It's Hot
Personal Bias: On a short list of my favorite live bands of all time is My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. I went to see them for the first time in 1998 not knowing how they'd be and having no expectations, and it was the best live show I would see for a handful of years afterward.
Random Detail: Thrill Kill Kult always has cool T-shirts for sale at the merch booth, and tonight was no exception with three different designs.
By the Way: True to what Groovie Mann said in the interview we recently did with him, this show was different from past tours, and each past tour I'd seen was different from the one before. Thrill Kill Kult doesn't go through the motions.