The Kooks – A night of Promiscuity @ The Troc in Philly 11/15/11
It’s my first time entering the Tracadero Theatre in Philadelphia and, immediately, I imagine it once as the home of many 1930 Burlesque shows. The stage, sitting back from the floor, is underneath a giant plastered arch trimmed with gold-painted vines. Hanging about a third of the way down is what seems to be a gigantic piece of cardboard with a mural of a ruffled curtain painted on it. The stage is level, not scaled for a more elegant form of dancing. Nothing in the place screams of authenticity, but as a modern interpretation of it. Nonetheless, the stage breathes life into the rest of the building. I imagine round tables and hardwood chairs on the floor where 600 some people are now standing, including myself. As I turn around and face the two levels of balcony behind me, I can hear the fine gentlemen in their suits and ties whistling and howling at the scantily-clad women bearing it on stage. But this is not the reason I am here tonight. One of East Sussex’s finest, The Kooks, are due on stage in a manner of hours, and only two things are threatening to torture me through it: the opening act (cleverly named the ‘Kooks Junior Cover Band’ by a lad of mine) and the hundred or so screaming prostatots around me.
The Postelles heat up the stage first with their foreplay, but not the enjoyable kind. They tease your ears by imitating the band you actually paid to see. The front man might as well admit that he is trying to sound like Luke Pritchard. The drummer and guitarist are skilled and entertaining but, overall, the band is as burlesque as the stage they are playing on. Only one song was enjoyable: Guitarist David Dargahi sings a bluesy tune with a sort of 40s doo wop vibe, which seems fitting since Philly was one of the first cities the style emerge in. The hour was spent faux-cheering and shouting comments stabbing fun at the band.The Kooks – Is It Me by hailh
After all the waiting, things are nearly perfect when The Kooks take the stage (“nearly” because I’m still surrounded by a bunch of high-squealed preteens). They come out appearing fresh and energetic, no doubt because Philly is the first night on their U.S. tour. Singer/songwriter Luke Pritchard kick-starts the night (almost literally, as he keeps tempo by driving his foot into the ground) with their newest single, “Is It Me?” Between the song’s reggae-dance beat and Pritchard moving all over the stage, it’s difficult for anyone to simply stand motionless in the audience. One can barely hear the song over the deafening screams, and that’s not knocking on the Troc’s sound system by any means. The band follows up with a few classics: “Always Where I Need to Be,” “Sofa Song,” and “Matchbox.” The audience is antsy with anticipation. Hearing these songs meant that they were going to play a lot off their first album. Luke finally takes the time to say a few words to the audience: “……………..new……..um.” is all that can be made out. Someone yells out “Someone get the man a translator!” No one cares and, collectively, we cheer regardless. They play “Rosie,” which leads one to believe that “the next few songs are from the new album.” You can pick up a slight accent from Pritchard on the album, but one would never guess he’d be so slurred in speech. I can’t help but imagine trying to hold conversations with other accented singers. Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, Joe Strummer, Liam Gallagher: Do all these wordsmiths truly speak this way?
All of a sudden, the stage goes dark prematurely. The band leaves the stage and I think to myself, “It’s a little early for a encore, isn’t it?” But Pritchard comes back out with an acoustic guitar and does a doctored-up little version of “Seaside” by himself. The band kills through another seven songs, intermingling mellow Police-reggae grooves with some post-punk Blur-ish and Pulp-ish beats. The night runs smoothly for them, except at one point when something doesn’t seem to be going right for guitarist Hugh Harris. He’s playing the synth and looks stage right and stage left to signal two different sound crew members, but neither one of them seem willing to help him. He just sort of laughs a scoffing laugh and keeps his attention devoted to the synth. The audience seems oblivious to the whole matter though; nothing really appears as awkward in the song itself. They end the set with “Do You Wanna?” where Luke shouts repeatedly through the chorus, “Do you wanna make love to me?” All the 15 year old girls scream in response, and my imagination is thrown back to a feminist-twisted version of the burlesque shows once held here some 80 years ago. The band ends on a wicked note, and they all drop their instruments leaving us with madly gorgeous feedback ringing in our ears.
After the traditional stomping of feet and encore of voices, the band takes stage for an additional three songs. “The Saboteur” comes up and I feel nervous again, fearing they will miss my favorite song. The second song was “Junk of the Heart (Happy),” and it’s about the happiest damn song I’ve ever heard. Seriously, I don’t know if The Beatles could top the rays of sunshine and white fluffy clouds this song gives off. We applaud, and I look my friend dead in the eye as he steals the words straight from my mouth. “They better freaking play Naive or I’m gonna be pissed.” Luke says something long and I pretend he’s wishing the audience goodnight, and so I shout goodnight back to him. The band still has their instruments in hand. Will they play a third song? Because most bands often play two, unless they’re having a really good night. A sickening chordal guitar lick comes through and numbs me, despite my frantic jumping up and down. Luke starts singing: “I’m not saying it was your fault, although you could have done more. You’re so naive, you’re so…” Like the men of old my wish comes true right at the last minute here at the old Tracadero, and I leave feeling completely and thoroughly satisfied. The best 25 bucks I’ve spent in a while.
Written by Christopher Hartlaub