There’s a reason The Kills and their crunchy blues-rock continue to make the rounds and blow out speakers. Their most recent LP, 2016’s Ash & Ice, distortion gods Allison Mosshart and Jamie Hince embarked on an extensive tour during during which I got to see them twice in New York. Electric, booming, and explosive, their sets at Terminal 5 in 2016 and Brooklyn Steel in 2017 were essentially the same (with the addition of “Sour Cherry,” my personal favorite, during the latter) and they even managed to get a very physical reaction out of the audience each time—a rare feat in a very stoic atmosphere.
However, neither of these shows could rival the set put together for their performance at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer earlier this month. This show was particularly special in comparison to the few U.S. shows on this new tour to promote their 7” List of Demands (Reparations) / Steppin’ Razor. As always, Mosshart commands the stage with an energy that explodes from cool and unaffected into ice-cold, hair-whipping garage goddess. Hince, the lead guitarist, stands up front with Mosshart but keeps his interaction with the audience to a minimum. But he saves his energy for his instrument, ripping it to shreds with a confidence that I can only describe as really fucking sexy. Often beating it with a closed fist, that guitar has been through hell, but the sound out the amps is heaven to us.
The real joy on this night came from the unexpected additions to the setlist, songs that Mosshart even had to admit they hadn’t played in a long time. In particular, the duo ripped through “Cheap and Cheerful,” a highlight off their third album Midnight Boom, and ended the night with “Fried My Little Brains,” the juggernaut of a shred that closed their first album Keep On Your Mean Side. Both tracks lean on the dancier side, whipping their energy up to eleven after a slew of singles that stomped rather than sprinted. Not that there’s anything wrong with stomping. The quivering bass of classics like “U.R.A. Fever” and “Steppin’ Razor” shake and titillate your nerves the way they should from a band known for barreling your eardrums. But speeding things up, even for just a couple of songs, took the show from sexy and moody to punk and groovy.
A decade and a half in and the duo are at the top of their game. Often singing with her hair strewn across her face, Mosshart knows full and well what she’s doing and how to keep the audience wrapped around her finger. The music bends her backward and throws her down to her knees, but she never takes herself too seriously, often smiling right back at the audience and thanking them. Hince meanwhile maintains a charming modesty, slipping out a few boyish grins through the set like a quiet schoolboy getting attention from his crush. And although they do their thing separately for the majority of the show, they rarely need to even look at each other to be perfectly in sync. When they do come together or catch eyes, they both light up as if they can’t wait for the next 15 years of touring.