The Kooks are one of those bands that you find surprising when you realise you know more songs than you anticipate. Tonight in Leeds at a sold out Academy show they are playing the greatest hits tour, a best of – probably because they have hit that post 10 year milestone and really the whole thing can go one of three ways from now. They either bow out in the way that
The Enemy did a few months ago, try to replicate the previous highs with a steady release of poorer albums, or, the more probable route – milk the old classic songs to death on the festival circuit in the summer and then a winter/spring tour of concert halls (perhaps see The Fratellis as an example?).
We arrive to see a white sheet stretched across the front of the stage and silhouettes of the band as they take up their instruments, there are tensions in this crowd even if we kind of know what is going to happen. Sure enough the shock of the dropped curtain rings screams across the venue as those former preppy kids from Brighton open with Eddies Gun, quickly followed with You Don’t Love Me. That’s the first two songs and I know them both, the reason being they’re from their debut album Inside In/Inside Out which is one of those so called “summer” albums.
Remember that hazy summer of 2006? No, me neither, it was probably the usual two months of grey drizzle, but, the point is there were She Moves In Her Own Way, Ooh La and Naïve to get us through it. Three great summer tracks that fit into the same category as Alright by Supergrass and Staying Out for the Summer by Dodgy. They remind us of beach sunny days and parklife with your mates. Tonight, The Kooks bring the sunshine to Leeds even though it’s actually snowing outside in April. Luke Pritchard is the frontman steering the boat and he’s incredibly sprite and looking for adventure.
That was the biggest surprise for me that they were so energetic, from the off, no steady build it was pretty full on with Sofa Song an early entry for track of the night, the band bouncing around and Pritchard alternating between pretty boy with guitar to pretty boy with a microphone. It’s classic post brit pop for the twentysomethings crowd and lapped up by everyone even the throwing plastic boys at the back. Luke is channelling Jagger and Hutchence moves with some
There is a sudden pause before Bad Habit and Down when Luke steps up to the mic and thanks all the fans for coming over the years, in a potential but not quite “this is our last tour” speech he gets everyone on their side which can only enhance the 70% female attendees’ euphoria.
Following the two tracks from their latest Listen album you realise that they are carefully selecting the best cuts from all their records. The biggest majority being from their debut and when She Moves In Her Own Way is played we get festival girls on shoulders and Paper Dreams Honey sung at summertastic decibels.
Fast forward a few tracks and Ooh La gets the same treatment, in fact it’s really only when a piano is rolled out for a poignant dedication to “anyone who has lost someone recently” and See Me Now that we can pause for breath, as it’s a little sweaty in the Academy tonight.
A single spotlight and an acoustic singalong to Seaside and we are close to the end of the set, they have played over 20 tracks in a fast moving setlist. Thankfully their 2nd album Konk is reserved for only 3 songs and Shine On (and on and on ad nauseam) is the 2nd encore. Bass player Peter Denton seems to be playing most of the set on one leg, not quite sure why, but then most legs are off the ground when the guitar riff of the ultimate big Kooks hit Naïve is played.
The adage of saving the best till last rings true once again and a particularly bonkers young crowd gets exactly what they wanted, one final chance to sweat , dance and sing in front of the band they used to sweat, dance and sing to ten years earlier. Whilst the The Kooks may have hit a very early peak in 2006, and are unlikely now to reach major festival headliner status, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t continue for another few years at least.
Live Review & Photography by John Hayhurst on April 27, 2017 at Leeds Academy.
John Hayhurst has his own gig photography website www.snapagig.com