Photos and Words by David Brendan Hall
One might assume that a duo rock act, by virtue of having fewer creative minds to reconcile, might be the swiftest sort of songwriters. Between 2003-2011, the Kills lived up to that notion, releasing four records during that span, one roughly every three years. By comparison, five years between 2011’s Blood Pressures and June’s Ash & Ice felt like an eternity.
But extenuating circumstances – notably, guitarist/singer Jamie Hince injuring his middle finger to the point of needing multiple surgiries – contributed to the delay. And not for lack of impact: the album is packed with instantly memorable tracks, highlighting the band’s talent for composing collections of tunes that complement one another with either an explosive edge (Ash) or incorruptible cool (Ice).
Anyone could sense pride in this disc watching Hince and his wild-bleach-maned cohort Alison Mosshart perform during their Sept. 8 show at ACL Live. It was a high-octane 75 minutes with much less dependence on Blood Pressures breakthroughs (no “DNA,” “Satellite” or “Heart is a Beating Drum”), and included 8 of 13 new cuts.
Yet their energy exuded more genuine excitement than mere pride during each fresh unveiling: hot out of the gates, they both strutted, sashayed and flailed through set opener “Heart of a Dog,” not slowing down in the slightest for old-school fan fave “U.R.A. Fever.” Mosshart’s voice was perhaps a bit raspy to begin, but the bark worked well with the former tune’s theme and likewise enhanced the latter song’s sinister tone.
“Hard Habit to Break” and “Doing it to Death” were no less intense and – based on the audience’s all-in choruses – are destined to be counted among the band’s most enduring hits. A set-closing hat-trick of massively distorted, Hince solo-heavy “Whirling Eye,” “Pots and Pans” and “Monkey 23” served up the band’s swampiest swagger. That run was subsequently balanced out by a solo acoustic performance of snarky yet beautiful ballad “That Love” – handled by a spotlighted Mosshart – to kick off a four-song encore that concluded with powerhouse one-two-punch “Fried My Little Brains” and “Sour Cherry.”
Over the years, Hince and Mosshart have performed with extra players (usually percussionists) from time to time, and they can certainly hold their own with just a drum machine. But the addition of a full-time bassist/keyboardist and full-kit drummer leant this jaunt the volume of an epic arena-sized show. Ferocity and finesse – this performance showed mastery over a balance of both.
Heart of a Dog
Hard Habit to Break
Doing It to Death
Pots and Pans / Monkey 23
That Love (Alison solo acoustic)
Fried My Little Brains