ARTICLE BY CHARLES HIGHWAY
PHOTOS BY CHRIS MOLINA for The Scenestar
FEB. 8 | ECHO PARK—Los Angeles, I hope you realize how good we’ve got it! Fresh from playing much larger venues in the U.K., The Kooks recently performed a handful of shows stateside in anticipation of upcoming album Konk. And this show tonight at the Echo had all the ingredients of a classic gig.
One of the best bands in England at the moment—Check! One of L.A.’s most intimate venues, complete with ’70s disco ball—Check! Brilliant, broken-hearted lead singer/songwriter—Check! And a young crowd with hormones raging—Check!
The appetizer before the Kooks main course was the excellent Berkeley-based band The Morning Benders. I was expecting pleasant, laid-back pop rock played by cute indie boys, but the band was actually much darker and tougher. Drop-dead gorgeous front man Chris Chu possessed an other-worldly quality akin to a non-epileptic Ian Curtis. Think of a mix between The Shins and Joy Division, and you might come close to describing their excellent live performance. As the band performed songs from forthcoming album Talking Through Tin Cans, due for release very soon, there was a light and shade element about the live set: Uplifting melodies gave way to darker introspection, which in turn yielded to moments of sonic aggression. The audience was thoroughly warmed up and ready for the main dish.
Luke Pritchard and the lads walked on stage with polite waves. Luke, dressed in his trademark skinny jeans and baggy white shirt, smiled coyly to the phalanx of girls at the front screaming his name. The band immediately launched into the appropriate “See the World,” a tried and tested crowd favorite, delivered with aplomb. Though energetic, the members did not seem as frenzied as in previous tours; not even one stage dive from Luke this time around. Replacement bassist Dan Logan, who is filling in for recently departed Max Rafferty, played like he has been a member of the band from the very start.
Overall, the Kooks played a technically perfect set. Fresh from the recording studio and sharp because of it, Luke’s voice was powerful, yet still possessed a fragile, youthful quality. The new songs mark a transition from indie pop to more beefed-up, ballsy rock. In “Do You Wanna (Make Love to Me),” Luke came straight out with it: “Do you wanna, do you wanna make love to me,” he sang, channeling Jim Morrison’s ghost. And as guitarist Hugh Harris rocked out like a mad metal axeman, the cool reserve of the L.A. crowd melted away, with fans shouting, “Yes, we wanna!”
The Kooks have always possessed varied musical influences. “Time Awaits” begins as bluesy rock and then segues via The Clash into Police-style reggae, complete with Luke’s Sting-like vocals. The song then finishes with yet another virtuoso rock guitar solo by Hugh.
But the crowd was at its most frenzied with the old songs, singing along word for word to favorites “Ooh La,” “She Moves in Her Own Way” and “Naïve.” For the encore, Luke performed solo “Seaside” and “Jackie Big Tits.” Then the rest of the band joined Luke for the Kooks’ first single, “Sofa Song,” finishing the night where it all began two years ago. It was a classic show performed by a band at the height of their powers in the most intimate of venues. A lucky few realized how good L.A. has got it.
See the World
Love It All
I Want You Back
She Moves in Her Own Way
Do You Wanna (Make Love to Me)
You Don’t Love Me
Jackie Big Tits
For more photos of the show, go to The Scenestar’s Kooks photo gallery.