The Kills: Live Last Night

the kills

Live Last Night

The Kills look like a rock band. Singer Alison Mossheart walked out onto the 9:30 club stage in a leather jacket and restlessly paced in circles in the moments before the music started. She has black bangs that cover her eyes, a perfect sneer and she even -- gasp! -- smoked cigarettes on stage. Guitarist Jamie Hince has his look down, too. His coiffed hair gave off that Joe Strummer-in-1980 vibe and he one-upped Mossheart in terms of cigarette-as-accessory usage by putting his on the neck of his guitar so it would burn as he played. Cool. Plus the band name: the Kills. Rock! If you're looking for a band for a fashion shoot, the Kills are it.

But if you're looking for a band that will put on a good rock show, you're more likely to find one in your neighbor's basement. The best you could say about the duo's set Thursday night was that it was mediocre karaoke.

The Kills play to pre-recorded drum (and bass, and some guitar) tracks. This is a growing trend and it doesn't always signal a bad show, but it especially hampered the Kills. That's because the Kills try to pass themselves off as edgy and dangerous -- the debut album was called "Keep On Your Mean Side" and there's a sinister quality to most of what they do. But how dangerous can you be when simply preening about and looking hard while all the instrumentation is piped in? How rock-and-roll is it to fling your hair to a pre-recorded beat? To make machine-gun guitar poses when you aren't even playing guitar? You had to laugh when Hince asked the soundperson for "a little more drums." Easy way to fix that -- bringing along an actual drummer.

It doesn't help that there's very little to the band's stripped-down, bluesy-punk tunes. Mossheart's scratchy voice is the band's best -- and only -- asset, but her lyrics come off as simple sloganeering ("Lipstick letters and souvenirs/Make a mockery of your fears"); again, all style and little substance. After just 10 minutes and three songs the bag of tricks was completely emptied, which left another half hour for, well, posing. The lone highlight was when the band brought out Stewart Lupton -- himself not always known for the best live performances -- for a performance of "The Search for Cherry Red," the best song by his very underrated '90s band, Jonathan Fire*Eater. His presence injected some needed life into the set.

Of course, it would have sounded a lot better with someone pounding a drum kit behind him.

By David Malitz |  May 1, 2009; 12:29 PM ET Live Last Night
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agree; i was bored about 15 minutes into their set

the horrors blew me away though; completely unexpected

Posted by: Deceiver | May 1, 2009 5:37 PM

Backing tracks from a rock band??!! booooooooo

Posted by: martbuchwald | May 1, 2009 9:12 PM

Oh wow. i am shocked and appalled at this review--the drum thing aside, this is probably the most fun i've had at a show in long time. i agree, they could use a drummer (for the tour at least), but overall the whole vibe and energy was intense. she is a rock star. so is he. i danced/headbanged the whole time, and so was everybody around me. i may see them again in Brooklyn tomorrow if that tells you anything.
..maybe you had to be in the pit.

Posted by: tarabowenva | May 3, 2009 8:19 AM

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