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House of Blues San Diego
Courtesy Nicholas Nguyen
This past Wednesday, February 29, The Kooks
played to a sold out crowd at San Diego’s House of Blues
in the Gaslamp Quarter, touring in support of their latest album Junk of the Heart
. Fans of the British indie-pop group lined up around the block for hours before the show and eagerly rushed in when doors opened to stake out the choicest spot on the venue’s wide floor. The young crowd chattered excitedly, showing off their loyalty to the band by sporting signed T-shirts from past tours and discussing their favorite Kooks songs.
First time visitors to San Diego, Chicago band Yawn
opened the show and got the crowd dancing. Their 45-minute set infused current electro-rock with world music and reggae influences, delivering a full and rich sound. Heavy percussion, liberal use of synthesizers, and electronic samples were featured throughout their set. Each member of the band also showed his range as a multi-instrumentalist in the course of the show, and Yawn featured two equally dynamic vocalists. Playing to their strengths, their songs were characterized by layered harmonies and polyphony.
When The Kooks
finally took to the stage, the crowd went absolutely wild, and frontman Luke Pritchard was well aware of the band’s effect on their audience as he swaggered onstage. Outfitted in skinny jeans, a mustard shirt with a wide collar, and a large black pendant, Pritchard evoked a 1970s vibe reminiscent of Mick Jagger. Frequently jumping around stage and strutting along the raised platform above, he played up the crowd with rock star stage presence. To his right, lead guitarist Hugh Harris did a modern take on classic British mod style, in striped shirt and white suit, complete with pocket square. Even just visually, the ensemble reflected their British Invasion influences, infused with a very contemporary style of rock.
The Kooks played a tight 80-minute set, covering 21 songs from across their three albums, and spending little time on stage banter. After offering the crowd a simple thanks for welcoming them back to San Diego with such a warm reception, Pritchard said “We’re going to play some more rock and roll.” They lived up to their recordings, giving their trademark rolling bass lines and high energy sound even more vivacity. Between the rowdiness of the audience and the fervor of the band, the atmosphere felt more like a summer music festival, crowd surfers included.
The Kooks showed a wide range throughout the show, transitioning effortlessly between rollicking openers, acoustic breaks, and chaotic rock closers. Their ability to bring down the energy with a swaying ballad and raise it back up in seconds with a splashy number kept the crowd on its toes. The growth across their three albums was also noticeable. Old hits were known as radio-friendly, catchy marriages between classic British pop rock and contemporary British post-punk. “Shine On,” from their second album Konk was even featured in a Michelob commercial. Junk of the Heart brings a harder sound and a slight departure from their breezier songs.