Published Jun 01, 2016Few vocalists nowadays have earned the title of "rock queen" — praise worthy of past all-out rockers and hair-flipping female performers like Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. The Kills' Alison "VV" Mosshart, however, can have whatever title she wants, and rightfully so.
Mosshart and guitarist Jamie "Hotel" Hince brought their never-failing energy and stage savvy to the Commodore in Vancouver last night (May 31). Their fifth studio album Ash & Ice is dark fun if a lot of the same old, but their intense live presence imbued the oftentimes-minimalist songs with pulsating life onstage.
Kicking the night off with the post-punk 2005 hit "No Wow," Mosshart threw herself around the stage in manic ecstasy, spewing electric vocal mantras. Taking "Heart of a Dog" from the new album to the stage really accented strengths not entirely evident in a sit-down listen, providing proof that, oftentimes, it takes seeing the Kills live to fully appreciate their records. Mosshart's breathy singing and gyrating moves synced up perfectly with Hince's wailing guitar, creating a perfect dirty on-stage marriage between the musicians and their music.
The wild-living anthem "Heart Is a Beating Drum" was a full-on dance rampage — by the band that is. In typical Vancouver concert-going fashion, the audience seemed to be in awe of Mosshart and Hince, but made very little effort to dance or do much else other than stand and stare for most of the show, but Hince's first hints at the opening bars of one of the new singles, "Doing It to Death," finally got the audience up and moving — at least a little.
If Vancouver's mediocre reaction to the rock revival onstage bothered Mosshart at all, though, she certainly didn't show it, fanning herself off in front of the wind machine with dramatic fervour and pressing head first against a large speaker as Hince soloed.
Mosshart was so effective onstage that her use of simple, somewhat clichéd stage tactics — cradling the microphone stand, flipping around her sweat-drenched blonde hair and sinking slowly to her knees and then the stage floor with an aura of being overcome — seemed almost fresh. She focuses wholly on the power of the music, and doesn't shy away from expressing how much fun she's having. Her performance is reactionary to Hince's and vice-versa, and their onstage chemistry is plain.
As the duo rolled through their setlist — from the sultry "Black Balloon" to the new and barely performed "Days of Why and How" — the energy never once dipped. At one point, Hince used the microphone stand as a slide for his guitar.
The Kills powered through a four-song encore, with astonishing energy. "Tape Song" — the time-does-not-care-about-you Kills classic — garnered a knowing reaction from the crowd and featured Hince's harmonic-heavy guitar and more of his low, seductive voice, but the newer "Siberian Nights," with its lyrics about dark love, really hit it home as Mosshart literally reached out to the audience, overcome with desire to connect.
"Sour Cherry," from 2008's Midnight Boom wrapped up the night, and concertgoers were treated to ecstatic smiles and bows from the worn-out duo. The Kills gave the Commodore a sharp hit of nostalgia — not shying away from the earlier gems of their discography — but couldn't have been fresher.
To borrow a line from the band's "U.R.A. Fever": They certainly "ain't born typical."