"VV's look (all fringe and straight legged jeans) is quite menacing. She strides up and down the stage pausing only to hop on the monitors at the front of the stage, like some demented white witch or priestess, haranguing the crowd with mumbled incantations and vicious gestures. "
Bloody hell, The Kills for gig of the year? It's now only May, and there is something very very special prowling about in Holland. Especially in Amsterdam. What is it that bands like about the place in 2005? Something has hitched up a notch. An unspoken forty years' anniversary of the Amsterdam Provos? Maybe, I don't really know; and furthermore I have no intention of diluting or dissipating away any magic that has been fermenting secretly by a careless piece of journalism on my behalf. Suffice to say that the year so far has seen shows of blinding intensity and sublime diversity by (amongst others) Arcade Fire, Radio 4, Adam Green, Rufus Wainwright and The Kills. Especially by The Kills.
What's gone on?
Last November we saw The Kills support Franz Ferdinand at The Heineken. In some ways the show they played that night was a ritualistic dumb show played out in front of 5000 people; 4994 nice middle class girls who wanted to scream at Alex & co, and six pissed Incendiary staff. A fore-taste, and a good one at that, there was something there that night that the Incendiary contingent really, really liked; the provocation inherent in the band's attitude to 4994 gum chewers, the refusal to be daunted by a monstrous stage and battleship-grey surroundings, and the loudness of the sound. The new album rocked too.
This time around, The Kills are playing a full-ish Melkweg. There's a buzz in the air and - a good sign - there are lots of people milling around looking like the band. People seem to like the album and like the look, a rare trait in Holland, as it happens.
In fact the mood is so good the support band, the appropriately named Cup o' Woes, take good advantage of it and proceed to play the worst supporting gig I have ever witnessed. They took the concept of playing a bad gig far beyond the panoply of this Earth. Indeed, if ever there is a job going in the Ethereal Realm for an enthusiastic bad opening gig band (with St Peter second up and topped off by a set from God), they've got my vote.
And the audience let it pass with a good natured shrug of the shoulders.
As I said earlier, what's going on?
Its then time for The Kills, who keep the audience waiting, feeding them just another trendy record before entering enshrouded in dry ice. Hotel sets off the drum machinery, and thump, straight into a super-charged "No Wow". It's immediately evident that the Melkweg's dark atmosphere and compact stage allows the band much more freedom to perform. VV's look (all fringe and straight-legged jeans) is quite menacing. She strides up and down the stage pausing only to hop on the monitors at the front of the stage, like some demented white witch or priestess, haranguing the crowd with mumbled incantations and vicious gestures. Hotel plays some kind of counter role to this, gliding around, like a scruffy Little Richard, accentuating every move he makes in some kind of vicious parody of guitar playing. Its not delivered in an ironic way at all, far from it, yet the whole display is obviously a kind of uber-underground showbiz, goading the audience into letting themselves go. And they do, cautiously at first, with complete abandon later. People normally chatter and nod along to a band in Holland, especially to a new band. But that is not the case tonight.
The Kills obviously have something in their music that's made a connection with the Dutch psyche. It's very apparent on tracks like "Love is a Deserter" and "Rodeo Town", where the audience belt out the chorus. What is also great about the performance is the utter confidence the band have at this moment in time. It may be the last night on the European tour but there's no question of them going through the motions, or any indication that they give a fig about technical blips or pauses. They are seemingly totally at ease with, and confident in their performance. Hotel was sweating like a bust water pipe, but that didn't stop him from wringing out his hair in an over the top display of just how wet he was. He later proceeds to flick all the subsequent sweat he's created into VV's face in a weird mating ritual, that might, (on reading these words), sound disgusting; but, (on seeing the actual event), was oddly inspiring. Even more inspiring was the end to "Love is a Deserter" where both of them got down on the floor to indulge in thee most over the top, theatrical sex re-enactment, replete with a "guitar as phallus" lesson to end all lessons. Bloody brilliant, and the audience thought so too, baying its approval like a blood soaked crowd at the Coliseum.
Later, in a display that was charm itself, they came out and chatted away with the crowd, signing sweet nothings for autograph hunters, posing for photographs, and listening to Incendiary witter on about how good they were. And they sportingly went to the pub with us.
A Great band and a great gig.
Words : Richard Foster
Photograph : Victoria Jacob