There’s always bands that have been around “for ages” and you never really attended a club gig, just too many festival gigs, although you have many of their records in your collection because you never crossed roads where you live and they play. However, music festivals aren’t always conducive to great performances. Most bands don’t get as much time as they’re used to, and they’re forced to play for audiences that haven’t necessarily turned up specifically to see them.
The Kooks are one of those bands for me, a band I have seen countless times at festivals, especially in the UK, but I never really lived where they toured. Finally it happened, in Hamburg and Sporthalle a Monday in the very beginning of April.
I’ve always associated The Kooks with a very young audience, especially young female fans about sixteen or seventeen year old, and when I arrived at Sporthalle a bit early, the lines in front of the doors were made up of the very same young fans. That’s some good work by the band, not the fact that they attract young female fans but that they seem to build a young fan base at the same time as older fans stay in the game. And that’s the reason why The Kooks have left the clubs and play arenas today.
The audience is late this night and both support acts play in front of not more than a few hundred, and in arena as Sporthalle that’s very much space out there. But people start to turn up at the end of the second support act, the amazing Blossoms, and about ten to fifteen minutes before The Kooks take the stage it’s nearly filled up.
In the discussion ahead of the show the photographer whined about how boring the three-song rule is (you’re just allowed to take photos during the three first songs from the photo pit, that’s the standard rule) because that’s the warm-up songs and the really cool pics you’ll get the second half of a show. However, if you ask me, the first three – although I would stretch it to four – songs we’re amazing performance-wise; The Kooks had apparently already warmed-up and stretched.
Frontman Luke Pritchard runs back and forth over the stage with a rarely seen frenzy to the tunes of “Always Where I Need To Be”, and the photographer almost had problems to catch him. This was followed by three more songs off my favorite The Kooks album, their debut album “Inside In/Inside Out” released already in 2006. The grand finale of such an amazing introduction is in “She Moves In Her Own Way” where Pritchard realized that his running across the stage took its toll, and he threw of his jacket.
This is also when the crowd start to wake up from their first-day-of-the-week hibernation. People sing-along from this point and Pritchard kept the crowd engaged with his quirky dance moves and adorable and wholesome presence. The band seemed genuinely happy to be on the road again and continued to play both mega hits and less popular tracks.
I have to say that the setlist was a well-balanced mix of The Kooks’ biggest hits with some of the newer stuff peppered in. After that smashing “Inside In/Inside Out” introduction the rest of the set was equally entertaining (it was just that I had my epiphany moment at the beginning) as the The Kooks played through hits like “Ooh La,” “See Me Now,” and “Pamela”.
Of course there’s an encore; it wasn’t enough with the first twenty (!) songs this night, and it starts with the first single of the latest album, “No Pressure”, but people already had their mind set on that everyone knew were about to come next, “Naïve” (what else?), the band’s most popular song. It was a solid way to close out the performance. Everyone in the crowd lit up and left the show happy that they got to see the group perform both new songs and well-received classics.
Photographer: Katrin Arfmann