Gig Reviews

The Kooks, Palais Theatre, Melbourne – 01/05/13

Who knew a crowd at the Palais Theatre could get so energetic? After all, all movement is obstructed by the seats of this former movie theatre, insulated inside tiny, art-deco cubicles. But obstructed though they may be, nothing could stop this crowd from dancing. The musical accompaniment? British pop-rockers The Kooks.

As the lights dimmed, the crowd immediately electrified. “How’re you all doing?” asks lead singer Luke Pritchard. The crowd responded with an eruption of howls and chants and the band’s opener, Inside In/Inside Out cut Ooh Lah, worked them into a frenzy. Though still seated, the energy in the room was palpable, threatening to lift the ceiling of the venue even higher. The crowd may have been young, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t know how to dance. And dance they did. After masterfully working through the delightful Eddie’s Gun, Pritchard commanded the crowd to rise to their feet. The crowd, sitting in the palm of Pritchard’s hand, did exactly as told and started moving their feet to the welcome sound of Sofa Song.

Surprisingly, the band played mostly from their first two albums, the aforementioned Inside In/Inside Out and their sophomore effort Konk. Only three songs from their latest release, Junk of the Heart were played: How’d You Like That, Runaway and Junk of the Heart (Happy). Considering the fact that the band has been on tour since Junk of the Heart‘s 2011 release, it may just be par for the course. It appears the road has made Luke and the boys nostalgic, or perhaps just sentimental.

The strobe lights flashed, Pritchard strutted the stage like a peacock, Hugh Harris (lead guitar) expertly worked his Gretsch and Paul Garred provided that all-important backbeat, keeping everything nicely syncopated. The band kept everything tight and playful and they didn’t seem to tire, feeding the crowd with their relentless energy. They gave a one-two punch of Always Where I Need To Be and Do You Wanna before finally providing a short recess for the crowd, who by this point had knees buckling from exhaustion. Though their sound may be more languid and less experimental than their BritRock contemporaries, The Kooks have a level of showmanship that stands up to any arbiters and rivals bands that have been at it for twice as long. They may even just stand up to their beloved Kinks.

The band returned to the stage to an uproar as loud and zealous as when they first came out. The audience, mustering up whatever energy they had left their bodies, sang along to Junk of the Heart (Happy) and the one that’s etched into all of their hearts, Naive. Again, the playing is seamless and proficient. So seamless in fact it would be nice to hear a little jamming or improvisation from the boys. They’re obviously accomplished musicians, but at times The Kooks are just a little too perfect for their own good and it would be nice to hear a little feedback leak out from their mighty amplifiers. But when the tunes are this much fun, who could complain?

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