It may be over 10 years since The Kooks released their chart topping debut album, Inside In / Inside Out, but it would be hard to tell standing amongst 2000 excited fans at the O2 Forum. The Kooks announced the 11 day UK tour in August and quickly saw nearly every show sell out.
I had the pleasure of attending the third sold out date in London earlier this month. Openers Hidden Charms and VANT kicked off the gritty, Brit-rock infused night. Hidden Charm’s dark catchy chorus hooks and Jaggeresque vocals were followed by dynamic and energetic performance from VANT on tracks like Parking Lot and The Answer. VANT’s lively set concluded with lead guitarist and singer Mattie Vant jumping onto the crowd barricade for a solo and tossing his guitar into the air from the stage.
Shortly before 9:30pm, the house lights powered off as a roar rose from the crowd. A single beam of light illuminated Kooks lead vocalist and guitarist Luke Pritchard amidst a sea of raised cellphones filming, photographing, and snap chatting his every move. The roar grew even louder as Pritchard strummed the opening chords to Seaside and was joined on stage by drummer Alexis Nunez, bassist Peter Denton, and guitarist Hugh Harris.
The Kooks followed Seaside with “See The World,” another track from Inside In / Inside Out and a medley of other classic hits, as well as newer songs like “Around Town” and Talking Heads inspired “Forgive & Forget.” Although the newer material was received amicably by the crowd, it couldn’t compare to the reaction during well known tracks like “You Don’t Love Me” and “Ooh La” where 2000 voices singing along frequently drowned out Pritchard’s own vocals.
The performance ran like a well-oiled machine with precise guitar solos and practiced crowd banter. After two back-to-back nights at the Forum, the sound engineer and lighting technician had honed in on the perfect settings to create a compelling visual experience and one of the cleanest live mixes I’ve heard.
After briefly stepping off stage, Pritchard hugged Harris before dedicated the last song of the encore, “Naïve,” to Harris’ father. Thousands of watts of amplification were really no match for the massive sing along that ensued. The crowd was left sweaty from hours of dancing with beaming smiles on their faces as they stepped over confetti from earlier in the evening and out into the unseasonably warm December night.
The evening may have had a distinctly nostalgic feel to it, considering many of the audience members were barely teenagers at the time Inside In / Inside Out was released, but the Kooks definitively proved they still know how to rock a venue. The band have announced a handful of European tour dates for 2016 but will hopefully bring their show to the states again soon for those of us residing on the other side of the Atlantic.