The Kooks are loveable boys next door who are masters at creating an infectious dance-rock energy that transcends the dimensions of any concert hall.

5/21/18 – House of Blues

Like pirates with a penchant for clubbing, the Kooks entered the House of Blues stage on May 21 wearing loose-fitting, half-unbuttoned collared shirts beneath strobe lighting. In front of a largely millennial crowd, the British quartet embarked on a substantial 22-song set that led to many sing-alongs. Boston was their first stop on their North American tour to promote a new album, Let’s Go Sunshine, that’s slated for release on August 31.

The Kooks are rockstars in the United Kingdom, but their recognition in the States symbolized a second British invasion after their first album Inside In/Inside Out propelled them to easy, early fame in 2006. They’ve released three additional studio albums since then, and uniting the talents of members Luke Pritchard (vocals/rhythm guitar), Hugh Harris (synth/lead guitar), Alexis Nunez (drums), and Peter Denton (bass), they’ve honed their craft to create consistently catchy riffs to give each track a discrete flair.

During their live set, the Kooks created a sense of inclusion and solidarity in audience members who quickly picked up a chorus or repetition in a song, even if they hadn’t listened to it much before. This was the case with the three new tracks they played off Let’s Go Sunshine, including “Believe” (which, as of May 22, has not been officially released), “No Pressure,” and “All the Time.” Thematically, the Kooks’ lyrics haven’t evolved or developed deeper—they still sing somewhat generic, clichéd lyrics about love, heartbreak, and the importance of being oneself. Take for example the chorus to “No Pressure,” which is pretty simple in nature—“We’re just having a good time, honey / No need to apply / No pressure / We’re just having a good time.” But according to frontman Pritchard, that’s okay. “It’s gotta be our most exciting album, and it should get you dancing,” he stated in a press release. Pritchard noted he wants the album to be “[their] Rubber Soul, Lola, Definitely Maybe.” In other words, the band’s magnum opus.

“No Pressure’s” dream-poppy, laid-back appeal contrasted nicely against the groovier, bass-heavier tune of “All the Time.” Both could be played at a high school dance as a soundtrack to kids falling in love. With this in mind, fans can expect even more of the same infectious upbeat tunes the band is known for.

For the majority of the show, fans were treated to a slew of hits and singles off all of their albums (Inside In/Inside Out, Konk, Junk of the Heart, and Listen) including “Bad Habit,” “Ooh La,” “She Moves in Her Own Way,” “Be Who You Are,” “Naive,” and “Do You Wanna?” Though most of these songs are classic Kooks, they had a much more expansive and aerial presence live than on the record.

Pritchard sung the few seconds of “Bad Habit” in a booming a capella while Harris played marvelously tight electric riffs. In “She Moves in Her Own Way” and “Ooh La,” Pritchard strummed an acoustic guitar while Harris played an electric, which was mostly a pleasing blend; at times, the acoustic seemed a little lost. During “Ooh La,” Harris transitioned through playing three separate instruments—an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and synth—which displayed his pristine musicianship. Harris’ use of the synth and electric guitar definitely downgraded this folkier tune in the band’s discography, and made it more of an archetypical rock song than a DIY jam between friends.

There were also some stranger moments during the show, like when Pritchard was dancing obliviously during “Westside,” a song about wanting to settle down and start a family with his best friend. On “See Me Now,” a letter in song form written to his deceased father, Pritchard performed solo on a keyboard. But whatever emotional state this song came from, little of the emotional value was left when it was played, more so serving as a break for the rest of the band. It was a short interlude, and the way the Kooks played “Do You Wanna?”—a song that repeats the lyrics “And do you wanna, do you wanna? / Do you wanna make love to me?”—immediately afterwards seemed a little absurd.

Mixing heavy repetition with 70s pop vibes, “Down” was one of the standouts of the evening, as Pritchard channeled a Jim Morrison-esque sensual energy. He frequently channeled this energy during other songs as he flounced about on stage, shaking his hips, and teasingly reaching towards the audience with flicks of his wrist. Whenever he wasn’t holding a guitar, he grooved like a show-offy teenage boy who knows he’s a heartbreaker.

Attending a Kooks show is an exercise in stamina, particularly while stationed in a pit. The Kooks are by no means as hyper-energized as their Brit rock counterparts (like the Vaccines or the Subways) can be, but while other groups generally balance between speedy and slow jams, the Kooks remain consistent in uppity mid-tempo jams that generally warrant a decent amount of head bobbing or jumping in one place. Even though they’re now in their 30s, they haven’t slowed down yet, and don’t plan to for a while.

“We’re old hat,” Pritchard told the audience, “but we’re still here.”

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