Live Review: The Kills Kill at The Fillmore

The Kills 
Baby In Vain
October 29th, 2014
The Fillmore

Better than: Being anywhere near a SFPD officer in riot gear.

Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, the duo behind the punk-blues indie band The Kills, took the stage at The Fillmore about a half hour after the wave of crazed yells and whoops had swept through the crowd. The news of the Giants' World Series win had been announced from the upstairs balcony, where a throng had been clustered around the bar TV for the past hour, and cheers were starting to make their way towards the stage. Baby In Vain, the grungy, mostly forgettable opening band, was wrapping up their set when the news broke, and seemed surprised by the sudden applause that broke out. They can be forgiven, of course, for their oblivious smiles; they're from Copenhagen.

[jump] Having a show the same night as a hometown World Series win can be both a blessing and a curse. Sure, everyone's in a great mood, and applause will break out just because the roadie re-adjusting the mikes is wearing a Sandoval shirt, but it also means that half the crowd is distracted, which, at the Fillmore, with its incredible poster walls and cavernous side hallways, is already a bit of an issue.
Despite the win, The Kills never let themselves be overshadowed by the Giants, putting on a dynamic show that managed to be…well, fun. Lead vocalist Mosshart and guitarist Hince have been touring only half-heartedly the past year, and they seemed invigorated by a solid week of West Coast tour dates, both of them overflowing with good vibes and rockstar panache. Mosshart was bouncing around the stage like a woman possessed, jumping on the stacks and occasionally picking up a guitar or a pair of drumsticks, letting her newly bleached mop of hair fly wildly. Hince, the more reserved of the two, conveyed his enthusiasm in more restrained ways, pointing his guitar at the audience like a laser beam and dancing a neat little shuffle during his solos. They both seemed to be having a ball, and the audience followed their lead.

The band played mostly new tracks, primarily off their latest effort “Blood Pressures,” but broke out a few songs off their debut “Keep On Your Mean Side,” with fans joining in on the favorite “Kissy Kissy.” The Kills' early work was notable for its lo-fi aesthetic, with lots of fuzz and echoes, but they've moved away from that in their more recent work, choosing to use drum loops and a creating a crisper, more polished sound. Songs like “U.R.A. Fever” and “Sour Cherry” sound perfectly fine on the album, but they receive an extra punch played live, coming out rawer and buzzier than the original versions. The only sour note was their finale, “The Last Goodbye,” a track practically written to close shows, which lacked the gravity of the studio version. The keyboards seemed a bit too overdriven, and they overpowered Mosshart's voice. It's a shame, as it really brought down what could have been the highlight of the night.
Still, there weren't many other flaws in the show. Props definitely need to go to the guy behind the light cues, for giving the band some excellent lighting. It's not often a band really takes full advantage of a light show in a venue like the Fillmore, and for most rock groups, the colors and flashes serve mainly to indicate a song change. The Kills' light show complemented their songs quite well, from a strobe that matched up with the feedback intro of “Satellite” to a blinding flash that filled the cheetah print backdrop during “Pots and Pans.” Nothing was too intricate, but the crowd got the impression that someone cared about the music and the show itself. A good light show isn't really a groundbreaking feature, but it's always appreciated.
It would have been easy for the duo to coast on the Giants' win, and there's no doubt a less confident band would have been making Bumgarner references between every other song. The Kills only did it once, offering a brief congratulations as they picked up their guitars. For the rest of the show, they weren't pandering for attention. They were earning it.

Critic's Notebook

Dating Tip: Just because you know a lot about the Butthole Surfers doesn't mean you need to share all your fun facts with the girl you're with. I'm talking to you, guy whose date could not have cared less.

Quote of The Night: [on phone] “Giants won, man! Guess I'll get high. Yep, same ol' me.”

Unintended Consequences: Apparently, MUNI shuts down all the buses once one of them gets destroyed. And apparently, the only Lyft drivers available at that point are the ones who'll stick their heads out the window trying to find the moon in the night sky. And apparently, a 200 percent tip isn't a suggestion so much as a form of mandatory penance for municipal property damage.


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