The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion! & The Kills, The Tivoli Theatre, Dublin, 29th January 2003It kind of looked like Patti Smith/PJ Harvey and Paul Weller were doing a collaboration gig as the two members of The Kills took to the stage. They clambered onto the stage looking like they couldn't give a fuck about anything (a good attitude when you're trying to be a rock star). The lead singer didn't even take her jacket off until they had blasted out their first song 'Superstition'. And, from that first song, you knew there was great chemistry between the boy guitarist and the girl singer. Each did a merry, though sexy, saunter at each other as they crooned their way through the set.
It was a pity they didn't have a drummer though, 'cos no matter what, stage presence can play a big part in how a band is perceived. But their routine seemed to be what they did and wanted and I wasn't gonna' tell them either way. What they lacked in other musicians, the guitarist did his best to make up himself. Mixing between chunky riffs and anarchic picking, he gave each song a life of its own. And the singer was no slouch either, not only did she look like Patti Smith, she certainly had been taking lessons from her. When he could, the guitarist would come in and do his Iggy Pop vocal impression. The highlight for me was the song 'Full A U'. With a thumping bass drum battering unrelentingly off the crowd, the song for me was the resounding success of the night. The guitaring was readily distorted as it dragged along with choppy riffs and hollering chords.
Their only real weakness came from the fact that you can only do so much with one guitarist. They had a drum machine, but a machine can't make up for human ingenuity on the night or, I suppose, human error, but for me they would have been top notch with a full complement. Because of this limitation, some of their songs start to take on similar complexions. Other than that, it was a highly impressive performance from a girl and a boy called The Kills.
Maybe I'm just very naive or more likely just very stupid, but when I first heard the name of this particular band, I was expecting almost a Van Morisonesque ensemble with berets, Yoko Ono look-a-likes and intermittent poetry opening with the lines "crazy hip cat shining on a moonbeam". Of course, I was mixing up jazz with blues. Whatever appeared on the stage would probably radically deviate from my preconceptions, but The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on stage couldn't be more different. They didn't look old and there certainly wasn't any berets. There was leather pants, long hair and thankfully no Yoko Ono's.
And, boy, didn't they come out of the starting blocks in a flash. Before I knew it, I was being submerged in a frenzy of electric guitar, hammer-like drums and screams from Jon Spencer himself. While they haven't a bass player, it probably wouldn't have been heard over the high octane riffs, picks and general mayhem anyway. Both guitarists shifted from one riff to the next as they did their best to explore every bit of their instrument.
They never really stopped and started a song. One song finished in a rage and another one started in a similar manner. As a singer Jon Spencer hollered, screamed, crooned and when he could gave a few trademark Elvis 'a-hu-hu's' which he, to his credit, greatly exaggerated. As the night wore on you could here some old fifties and sixties classic rock n' roll coming into the set. Even though Jon Spencer looks Trent Reznor, at times him and his band sounded more like Buddy Holly, well maybe Buddy Holly on a bottle of Jack Daniel's.
As they closed I suppose what you could call their opening set, I was impressed by their antics. Their drummer stood on his own as an energetic and innovative percussionist. As a unit they were solid, if always bordering on annihilating themselves by the speed and power in which they delivered their music. Almost as soon as they had come off, though, they had resumed their position on stage and it was at this point that their routine was becoming a bit stale and repetitive. I suppose this was the first I had heard their music, so I had no closeness with the songs. If I had of been a big fan, I probably would've wanted them to stay on all night.
It was only after their encore started to become longer than their original set that I was becoming jaded with them. All the same, they had still played a great gig and the fans in the crowd testified to this by their enthusiasm and praise. On the night, they were good to watch and to listen to. Apart from tiresome encore, they showed just how they really are accomplished musicians as well as energetic and lively stage performers.