If there’s one aspect of music writing that makes any music writer worth their weight in words writhe with discomfort, its the seeming necessary process of labeling a band; at times labels – er go, “descriptors” – for bands can be fun and whimsical, but most of the times end up being slights that serve less purpose than intended.
That being said, with as much focus on labels and genre classifications a band like The Kills sitting surreptitiously at the edge of “legendary” and “iconoclast” status seem to be overlooked for one reason or another. Certainly not for lack of noise, that’s for damn sure. Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince put in the work (damn good work, at that) and manage to carve out their own stylistic niche (that has been pilfered more than once, but never surpassed) over the span of nearly two decades and its blossomed at a criminally under-acknowledged rate. They’ve kept their heads down and plowed forward with a sound and fury replicated by few others, solidifying them as the fringe legends they are.
With all that in mind, The Kills have always put on an incredible live set, and their Nashville stop at Marathon was certainly no exception. Preceded by Kim & the Created – arguably one of the most seamless headline/support pairings –Mosshart and Hince came out taking no prisoners with an onslaught of sound and playful wrath with set opener “Heart of a Dog” as Mosshart began traipsing around stage with her subtle dominance. Where Hince’s guitar work directs The Kills’ live set, Mosshart is capable of every conceivable flourish a rock band would ever desire, as they dropped right into “URA FEVER” (a classic) with power and force despite the subversive nature of the track.
It didn’t take long for the scent of weed to waft across the crowd, but Mosshart and Hince paid no notice (not that they would need to; they’re not children), spitting out her gum just as Hince and the band threw the set into crunch mode on “Kissy Kissy” and “Hard Habit to Break” as a brief mosh commenced but didn’t ensue longer than a minute (that’s the funny thing about The Kills’ fan base – they all came up with the band, now opting for exuberant head nods than frenetic moshes).
What was oddly refreshing about The Kills’ Marathon set was that despite running through tracks off their 2016 LP, Ash & Ice, Hince and Mosshart opted for the bare minimum of “thank yous” and “alrights,” in terms of banter; they just did the damn thing. And they sure as hell did it well. After finishing up the main set, Mosshart returned to the stage solo to run through “That Love” in a disarming acoustic set, before crushing out closers “Last Day of Magic” and “Sour Cherry.”
So as mentioned earlier, if there’s one thing that brings me great concern and discomfort with regard to writing about music and the people who make it, its ascribing titles to something that’s ultimately nebulous and fluid. The Kills are most definitely not a band that needs and sort of genre ascription or etymological flourish to entice the average show goer to catch a set, but if you must have something to grasp, just know that The Kills are absolute and unequivocal pros that demand your attention for the entire show.