Blossoming during the retro-obsessed early ’00s, the Kills have been one of the few bands of the period to remain commercially relevant over a decade later. Much like peers The Black Keys, The Kills have enjoyed success mining a commercialized vein of the blues that fits comfortably inside the sonic confines of mainstream rock radio. The Kills’ 2011 album “Blood Pressures” — the band’s first after frontwoman Alison Mosshart’s stint in the Jack White-lead supergroup the Dead Weather — was the group’s best commercial outing to date, cracking the Billboard Top 40 and selling well internationally.
Following a Saturday evening performance at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival, The Kills opened a two-night stand at the Mayan Theater with a visceral set that was rapidly-paced and feverishly performed. In front of a projected leopard print backdrop, Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince strutted onto the stage to the roar of the sold-out theater. Mosshart wore a black fedora and striped cardigan, pacing nervously as the chugging beat of “No Wow” blazed through the speakers.
Minutes into the track, the duo was joined by a quartet of drummers, each playing two floor toms and a snare. These drummers performed in leather jackets and exhibited a series of choreographed, militaristic movements throughout the concert. The crowd went wild for “Blood Pressures” stand out “Future Starts Slow,” a thudding, riff-based track that benefited from a jagged guitar part and the tightly sung vocals of Mosshart and Hince. “Black Balloon” was one of the few songs that utilized any sort of dynamic contrast, as Mosshart slung a guitar over her neck and took the opening verses alone.
As the evening progressed, it became undoubtedly clear that The Kills are completely reliant on a carefully-curated image; the music is part of the equation, but it’s not so much the songs as it is the style of the songs that seems to connect the group with its audience. On stage, Mosshart moves and sings like a composite of lead singers from rock ‘n’ roll’s past — shades of Rose, Jagger and Joplin can all be found in her movements — yet she’s somewhat void of any original perspective.
“Baby Says” was one of the few songs to benefit from a truly grounded melody. On a compositional level it was the strongest song of the night and it provided a much-needed respite from the constant crunch of the other tracks. The band finished with a four-song encore punctuated by the melodic piano ballad “The Last Goodbye.” As the lights dimmed, Mosshart waved and slyly quipped “We’ll see you soon … tomorrow!”