Concert Reviews

The Kills Held Nothing Back in a Flood of Rock-and-Roll Power

Last night at the Ogden Theatre, the Kills blasted out of the gate with “No Wow,” spending little time on preambles and setting the stage for a ferocious energy that lasted the entire evening. The Kills aren't really known for low-key shows, but this performance was especially generous. Even with the drummer, the keyboard player and the bassist in the background and the spotlight firmly on Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, the arrangement seemed to create a comfortable, relaxed spirit for the band. You got the feeling that Hince and Mosshart felt like they could completely cut loose — and they did.

What emerged from the free-flowing spirit was the fact that the Kills are a more interesting band than the kind of saviors-of-rock, neo-blues-based rock-and-roll box they've been put into. There was that aspect to the music, but without the baggage of trying to revive some bygone era. The band we got to see has established its rock-and-roll bona fides on its own terms, and was having fun and getting creative with a style of music that has been declared dead multiple time in the past two decades. The Kills came off more like Gun Club or the Birthday Party in its thorough absorption of diverse influences. There was no clumsy attempt to cop another group's mojo: You could tell that Mosshart and Hince knew they had already built plenty of their own.

Mosshart is a powerhouse, magnetic and almost acrobatic frontwoman. She used the mic stand as an anchor around which she could pinwheel and gesture dramatically, leaning in to deliver her impassioned vocals. There was a focused intensity about Mosshart's performance that was riveting from beginning to end. People who had only really come because they knew about Dead Weather seemed taken aback by Mosshart's sheer power. Hince's guitar tone cut through everything without sounding like it was dominating the whole spectrum of sounds — no doubt a product of his careful attention to production. The voicing of the guitar alongside Mosshart's singing had a combined power that was completely irresistible. There was no holding back, and that will always separate a merely good show from a truly great one.
The set list, half of which came from this year's Ash & Ice, was pretty similar to what the band has been playing on this tour, with a few changes. The band closed the regular set with "Monkey 23" and played a four-song encore, including "Sour Cherry." You'd think it could get rote, but no moment of the show felt dialed-in, even with older material like “Fried Little Brains” and “Black Balloon.” Maybe the backing band and live percussion allowed for some flexibility in keeping the music fresh, but it seemed like the show's power came from a synergy between the audience and performers who never lost faith in their songs.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.