The Kills: 9:30 Club, Washington, DC 02/02/2012

The Kills played Washington, DC’s legendary 9:30 Club on their North American tour, gearing up to a tenth anniversary concert in New York City this past week. The band has built quite the following over the past ten years, and are especially known for dynamic live performances and strong studio albums that pull from a garage punk aesthetic. The show last week was no exception, and only further cemented their reputation as a fantastic live act.

Jeff the Brotherhood opened the show, and was met enthusiastically from the crowd that. for the most part. filed in early to see the Nashville duo. The Orrall brothers’ bold, concise two-piece setup displayed a surprisingly wide range of styles. While unapologetically playing their forceful and often abrasive sound, they still managed to sound organized and lithe. The synergy of Jake and Jamin was most apparent when they settled into calmer parts of their mostly heavy set. Their punk energy was tempered by clean rhythmic pieces, making for a unique sound from the duo, who seems capable of playing a variety of genres.

The Kills’ intimidating stage presence was undeniable, established early with a threatening version of “No Wow,” the set’s opener. Working atop a drum machine putting out what were at times frantic beats, the electrifying duo, Alison Washart (“VV”) and Jamie Hince (“Hotel”), worked well off one another throughout the night. All but three tracks from 2011’s Blood Pressures were featured in a bold 90-minute set, with much of 2008’s Midnight Bloom featured as well.

Having dual drummers symmetrically pounding often demonic sounds to supplement the drum machine already in place created a powerful sound charged with intensity. The aural brawniness is a noticeable and marked contrast to Washart’s voice, which is at times tender and loving, but which still can revert to something more sinister, thereby underlying much of the band’s sound. Washart demonstrates both personalities in most songs, and quite dramatically in songs like “DNA.” Her voice is accentuated by Hince’s guitar in an unusually effective ways. Emotional momentum is always building between them, often released in a direction one wouldn’t necessarily expect.While she is an outstanding entertainer, Washart’s sexiness comes from the The Kills’ music. Hince contributes to his bandmate’s persona chord by chord, while he remains mostly stoic throughout– focused on the melody of the songs.

A slightly slowed version of “Kissy Kissy” set the room into a melodic trance that was overwhelming, as did a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” which set a completely different tone. Washart’s voice in delicate moments like these was considerably more powerful being set around the grittier, more aggressive spells supplied by Hinces’ booming guitar riffs and the often harsh drummers and drum machine. The Kills are unpredictable, sometimes creating moments of beauty in seemingly dark places, making for an unusually stimulating live experience. Maintaining a relative grace, regardless of harshness of subject matter or tone of the song is something that comes naturally to Washart, as demonstrated by songs like “Baby Says.” This pair continues to display their musical talent in a remarkable emotional spectrum rarely supplied by any medium.

No Wow
Future Starts Slow
Heart Is a Beating Drum
Kissy Kissy
U.R.A. Fever
Last Day of Magic
Crazy (Patsy Cline cover)
Baby Says
Nail in My Coffin
Black Balloon
Tape Song
Cheap and Cheerful
Pots and Pans

The Last Goodbye
Sour Cherry
Fuck the People
Monkey 23

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