Featured image: Desh Kapur
After a four-year hiatus following their last record ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’, The Kooks have re-entered the indie-rock spotlight as they gear up for their sixth album, Echo In The Dark set for release on July 22nd. The Brighton-based band have been consistently at the forefront of the guitar band scene since their formation in 2004 with four top 10 records, countless global tours and a slew of awards to their name.
The Kooks are feeling nostalgic this year as they look back on Inside In / Inside Out, the debut album that plunged them into the mid-noughties indie rock pool alongside the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, The Killers and The Strokes. To mark 15 years since the album’s release, they have embarked on a nationwide anniversary tour. I headed down to their Manchester date at Victoria Warehouse to see how their peak indie-era bangers hold up in 2022.
My initial thoughts as I was passing through the venue’s big industrial doors is that Victoria Warehouse is a venue with a personality of its own. The dauntingly high ceiling and multi-levelled balcony can be quite imposing for whoever is on stage. If the artist doesn’t match the bold personality of the surroundings it can leave them seeming insignificant and overwhelmed by the grandeur of the setting.
However, the charismatic on-stage presence of Luke Pritchard quickly stamped the band’s authority over the room. He opened with a sentimental comment about how emotional it is to be back playing these big shows post-lockdown and this instantly unified the crowd in a shared feeling of appreciation that we can all return to doing the things we love.
The first half of the set saw them barrel through their early classics, from the acoustic rendition of ‘Seaside’ and the dance-inducing energy of ‘Eddie’s Gun’ to the sing-along anthem ‘Ooh La’. This early flurry culminated with the double-platinum fan favourite ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ which proved that they still have their old playful charisma.
‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ is a track full of youthful spirit and refreshingly uncomplicated romance. You may have thought that after 15 years they might find it hard to replicate the track’s early 20s mindset yet they delivered it with just as much freedom and intensity as they did when it was first written.
The set then diverted into their more recent discography with ‘Bad Habit’. Pritchard performed his frontman duties to a tee as he began the track with a Freddie Mercury-esque back and forth with the crowd before leading them to copy the soulful vocal chant that runs throughout the song. As the track began properly, Pritchard switched into his more biting vocal style and the crowd continued this powerful harmony. The united chorus echoed around the room and bounced upwards towards me on the upper balcony. It not only engaged the whole audience but it added a real magic to the performance and was a memorable highlight of the night.
The second half of the set was more considered. Tracks like ‘If Only’ and ‘Do You Wanna’ still provided some high-octane moments, and their latest single ‘Connection’ offered a fresh, modern interjection. Yet the back-to-back performances of ‘Got No Love’ and ‘Time Awaits’ saw them dig deeper into their instrumentation and showcase their ability for creating varied dynamics. ‘Time Awaits’ was a definite highlight. It allowed them to explore the wide variety of their musical influences with elements of reggae, blues, funk and rock all combining to create a really rich and musically flavoured sound. They executed the fade in/fade out outro of the track by dipping between low-key jazz atmospherics and expressive rock outbursts to close the main set.
However, they weren’t finished, of course. They arrived back on stage and provided a last moshpit initiator ‘Matchbox’, and a final sentimental, lighters-in-the-air moment with ‘No Pressure’ before their big finale. Pritchard said himself “I think you all know what song this is gonna be” and he was right!
The anticipation for their biggest hit ‘Naive’ was palpable and they didn’t disappoint. Just like the show as a whole, this last performance was one filled with youthful energy, a dose of angsty swagger and a whole lot of soaring vocal displays that were reciprocated by the entire room. It was proof that The Kooks are just as free-spirited and expressive as they were in 2006 and it should fill everyone with excitement for what they have to come in 2022, especially their brand new album.