“They’re my favorite band!” said the girl in front of me in line, when I had asked why the hell she was there two hours early. In my defense, I saw the line and hopped on worried I would never be able to get a single picture with the crowd that had gathered already. “Really?” I said, “I guess I just never saw them as favorite band material.” Now, I stand corrected. I don’t mean to say they’ve become my favorite band, but after their intimate performance at the Bowery Ballroom I could see why that girl, and potentially many others, consider The Kooks their favorite act.
I’d remembered catching onto the band shortly after they finished their last US tour, where they had played enormous venues. That didn’t stand up to their near headlining status at UK festivals, but the Bowery Ballroom doesn’t hold a candle to the crowd sizes they’d carried elsewhere. It was plain to see that the band just might have missed being able to see the faces of their audience, no longer separated by the distance of a fifty foot gap between them and the girl who waited hours to be smashed against a railing while attempting to extend her hands far enough to somehow magically touch a member of the band.
When the lights dimmed, the shrieks of many a girl brought me one step closer to tinnitus, and the band opened with “Always Where I Need to Be,” one of a few songs where singer Luke Prichard wasn’t confined to a stationary mic stand(guitar duties, you know?) and was able to bop around the stage. Shimmying around the small stage, small waves of hands would pop up from the crowd in the immediate vicinity of his body. He could’ve literally been spewing gibberish, and the crowd would’ve eaten it all up. Don’t worry, though, he was pretty damn on key.
It was interesting, as the night progressed I realized how formulaic The Kooks songs were. Repetition based chorus, lyrics about some girl who may or may not exist, and a slight air on the side of either heartbreak or happiness. But, I’m never one to knock a formula if it works. Slight breaks in the technique, like the building compounded on the heavily repeated “Do You Wanna” were great, allowing the crowd to respond to the cries of “Do You Wanna make love to me?” over, and over, and over. However, the best break in the formula was the new track “The Saboteur.” The band had been previewing songs from their soon to be released Junk of the Heart and this song, bordering on Elton John mixed with Franz Ferdinand may have been the best song the band has written to date. The usual groans and tried patience sitting through new songs were replaced by a willing attentiveness, and a lot of trying to decipher the words so girls who waited hours ahead could know the lyrics before everyone else.
I guess I would liken this show to seeing a sweetheart version of The Strokes. Guitar driven Indie Rock with good looking band members, but an increased emotion and more than one smile. The band soaked in the raucous reaction from the crowd, embracing their feedback to songs new and old, and putting on a performance that warrants them being at the top of someone’s list.
(Photos by Michael Zonenashvili)