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Monday, September 12, 2011

Friday: The Kills Keep Their Distance at Oakland's Fox Theater

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 8:40 AM

click to enlarge The Kills at the Fox Theater - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • The Kills at the Fox Theater

The Kills
September 9, 2011
Fox Theater, Oakland

Check out more photos in our slideshow.

Better Than: Being at an actual fashion show.

"Is it me, or were they coked up to the eyeballs? I thought he was gonna keel over and die."
These are the first thoughts of a woman exiting Oakland's Fox Theater on Friday night, after watching The Kills' occasionally thrilling, sometimes flat, but persistently impersonal set. Whether intoxication is a factor or not, something is definitely off with Jamie Hince's performance tonight -- an issue most obvious in his problem with repeatedly false-starting songs.

Alison Mosshart is in better form for the most part, having grown in confidence enormously since the duo first started performing a decade ago. Tonight, she is a headbanging, hip-swaying, prowling and ferocious rock 'n' roll goddess, and the crowd is utterly enamored with her from the get-go. All she has to do to prompt giant roars of approval from the audience is stand on a monitor or slip a guitar on. And it's a good thing portions of this room are so thrilled by such small  actions tonight, given how little interaction we actually get from the band.

click to enlarge Opener Eleanor Friedberger - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Opener Eleanor Friedberger
There are some "Thank yous," a "We love Oakland," a "D'you mind if I take a seat?" and two bouts of inaudible between-song mumbling, but frankly, it's not enough. A band that is half-machine should be working twice as hard to engage the audience, but Hince and Mosshart seem largely disinterested in the fact that anyone's even here. Even during a gorgeous rendition of "One Silver Dollar," when they sit on the monitors at the front of the stage and are physically closer to the audience, the figurative distance remains palpable. All night, they are removed, separate -- and what starts out seeming cool, ultimately ends up feeling merely cold, bordering on uncomfortably arrogant.

Thankfully, tonight is peppered with fantastic moments, too, most of which are thanks to the spark and dynamism that occurs every time Hince and Mosshart face each other and share vocal duties -- "Kissy Kissy" smolders with chemistry, the distortion-heavy "U.R.A Fever" is sensational, and "D.N.A." is compulsive viewing. That's not to say that Mosshart can't take care of business on her own -- opener "No Wow" is all about her, "Heart Is A Beating Drum" is electrifying, and encore "Last Goodbye" is the most beautiful moment of the night.

click to enlarge Opener Eleanor Friedberger - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Opener Eleanor Friedberger

There's no doubt that The Kills are still something special and that Alison Mosshart has enough charisma to carry both of them to the end of a show, but Hince's sporadic sloppiness tonight could've been rectified by a more engaging attitude towards the audience. Instead they looked like two people who couldn't bring themselves to acknowledge their own mistakes -- which might just explain the undercurrent of arrogance tonight.

click to enlarge Opener Eleanor Friedberger - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Opener Eleanor Friedberger

Critic's Notebook

"Black Balloon," "Satellite," "U.R.A. Fever".

"When I saw them at Coachella, they were on fire! Tonight, they kind of seemed half dead. When they held hands it was like 'Woah! Skeletor!'."

Personal Bias: Been a fan of Alison Mosshart since her days in awesome pop-punk band, Discount (a project she has since tried to distance herself from). I miss her sweetness from back then, but she's about fifty times cooler now, which clearly sells a great deal more records.

click to enlarge Opener Eleanor Friedberger - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Opener Eleanor Friedberger

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