Live at Cockpit on Tuesday, 1st February 2005
The Gin Palace are quite possibly the strangest looking band I have ever seen. Vocalist, Meaghan Wilkie, with her petite, pixie-like features, stood onstage like a tiny girl, playing dress-up. Displaying a huge smile, she swished her wedding-style dress and twirled like a ballerina. In between songs she childishly banged the cymbals of the drums and giggled nervously. Yet whilst on some levels displaying such child-like innocence it wasn't long before a slightly evil, possessed, glint in her eye became visible. Watching her is fascinating; more of a Bjork character than the next Karen O, but it is impossible not to notice that she is actually a bit of a mentalist. On the other side of the stage stood guitarist Jon Free, looking absolutely huge, towering over Meaghan like a threatening giant getting ready to gobble her up. Unable to take his eyes off her, he stared intensely as she pranced around the stage. Though, as the set progressed this became an uncomfortable scenario to watch, seeming, well, a little perverted really.
Sound-wise, The Gin Palace display a type of demented Art-school blues, which had the crowd split right down the middle tonight. Personally, I wasn't convinced. Meaghan seemed to be talking rather than singing and although I was quite taken with her as a storyteller, I never quite got into it. Yet, I was impressed by how much noise they could make with only two instruments; with no bassist, it was left to Jon to do all the guitar work and it was unbelievable that such sound came from only one guitar. Meanwhile, geeky Science kid look-a-like, Stuart Bell, provided fierce non-stop drumming. Yet it wasn't enough for me. The scathing lyrics centre around drinking, sex and killing and it all seemed to be a bit too much when being "sung" by someone who looks like a seven year old, putting on a performance for her family in the living room.
When The Kills stride on stage it is hard to believe that The Gin Palace were even on the same bill. VV prowls around, eyeballing the audience and immediately appears shaky and unstable, yet in a completely different manner than Meaghan just did. VV has a serious attitude problem, but she sure as hell is a star. Hotel says hi and they launch into the title track of forthcoming album 'No Wow' and what a way to start. The pounding drum machine and the scratchy guitar sound immediately drags the audience into their world of sleazy blues rock. The pair seem possessed by the music throughout the entire set and prove to be an enchanting partnership. Whilst VV makes use of the stage, throwing herself all over her half, hair sprawled all over her face, Hotel stands on the spot and stares straight ahead, his facial expressions never changing, looking pale and withdrawn. Yet despite their difference in action, for both of them, the music and each other are the only things that seem to fixture in their heads.
This explains why there is virtually no interaction with the crowd, apart from a quick hello and a goodbye from Hotel. We get nothing from VV, at one point an adoring male fan reaches out to touch her but she snatches her hand away quickly. The Kills do not perform for the audience, they perform for themselves. They are the music. Their bodies jerk with every sound; every chord, every beat seems to come from directly within them. The only time this seems to slip is when VV plays guitar too; although it might sound good, it somehow seems to confine her. She can't move with it and she looks a bit uncomfortable and restricted. Yet she overcomes this later during track 'Kissy', when it seems they take the phrase 'duelling guitars' just a little too seriously - by the end of the track they are violently pushing their guitars together, embodying the sexual tension that dominates the entire set.
Certainly, I have never before seen such a sexual gig. During 'Black Rooster', the lyrics 'kids wanna fuck and fight' seem to epitomise the pair's relationship - VV stares at Hotel like she's either gonna fuck him or kill him at any second. They share mics and thrust their bodies against each other, but never, ever, smile at each other. Yet, this is a completely different situation to that which I felt so uncomfortable with during Gin Palace. VV and Hotel are one and the same. They thrive upon one another's mere existence and created an atmosphere of pure lust, which seeped into the air and into the bodies of every member of the audience. The dark, sweaty setting of The Cockpit was so fitting and enhanced the seediness to it's maximum. By the end of the set the crowd was sucked into their relationship and watched intensely as the pair knelt down before each other, before VV lay on her back and Hotel plunged his guitar between her legs, the pair thrusting with every chord. Pure filth, I'm telling you.
Highlights included new single 'The Good Ones' and tracks from their debut album, 'Fried My Little Brains' and 'Cat Claw' although it was on this latter track that VV did actually come in too early, letting her attitude and posture slip for just a second and proving that maybe she is human after all. These tracks display the staccato sound of Hotel's amazing guitar work and the powerfulness of their duel vocals. As they sing "You got it, I want it" they could be just as easily singing the thoughts of the crowd as they could of each other. The Kills clearly have it and the crowd were left begging for more, even after they did an encore.
The gig tonight was as much about performance as it was about the music and when considered together it was a truly amazing night. You kind of couldn't help wishing that maybe VV would just smile a little or maybe that they would just say something, anything, between songs but the whole point about The Kills is that this is all part of their act. They returned onstage with 'Fuck the People' and this sums up their attitude entirely. But here, the people didn't care. The Kills do what they do because they want to and tonight that was all we could ask them for.