Review: The Kills Heat Things Up at POP Montreal
Hot and cold references aside, The Kills’ newest album, Ash & Ice, is anything but lukewarm.
In fact, the band is alive and well and as vital as ever.
Their showmanship at Metropolis on Wednesday night—an intricate, electrically charged fusion of playfulness, commitment, sincerity, and rocker nonchalance—was further proof that the band hasn’t reached a bump in the road.
Over the course of their career, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince have taken us for a ride through their home turf: musical graveyards. They’ve visited the headstones of 60’s and 70’s rock ‘n’ roll riffs, 80’s punk jams, and synthy 2000’s bass lines.
It seems referencing the past is an integral part of how The Kills manage to cultivate their distinct sound. According to a 2009 interview for The Stranger, they even chose their name because it “sounded like a band that could exist in any decade.”
The duo’s songs act as memento mori that showcase their widespread influences and illustrate the ephemerality of life. Their lyrics are studded with allusions to fleeting moments and impermanence, from “U.R.A Fever,” a Midnight Boom—a 2008 anthem with atypical rhythms that mimics the erratic nature of passing time—to “Doing it to Death,” Ash & Ice’s emblematic single, which evokes California decadence.
The concert opener, “Heart of a Dog,” was a tune fresh off the new album that wants to be listened to as much as its subject, who wails: “I’m loyal, oh oh, I’m loyal.” The song immediately established a communion between The Kills and their singing fans. Symbolically, the melded voices incarnated what is, to date, a shared, 15-year musical journey.
The setlist also called attention to the uncertainty, pain, and passion of life’s milestones, as well as to The Kills’ expert ability to guide us through the whirlwind towards calmer waters. After a devilish half-hour of pyrotechnical performance—mesmerizing strutting, slinking, and head banging, coupled with skillful guitar bravado—Mosshart returned to the stage, solo this time, for a raw, soul-bearing, acoustic encore performance of “That Love.” She was soon joined again by Hince to complete the haunting strains of “Siberian Nights” and “Last Day of Magic.”
Even rock stars have to confront their mortality. The duo’s stream-of-consciousness stories are genuine, yet unspecific snapshots drawn from personal experience that leave sufficient room for individual interpretation and self-recognition. The artistry lies in the band’s ability to subtly reference relatable themes without resorting to clichés.
Mosshart and Hince are clearly masters of the storm. On Wednesday night, they enveloped us in their tempest and demanded that we trust they would deliver us safely to our final destination.
The climax of the show, “Fried My Little Brains,” seamlessly eased the transition from the concert hall to the real world, bringing us full circle, right back to where we began. Now what remains of the night is an elusive memory we tried to sear in our skulls—but in the end, isn’t that the point?