The Kooks took to the stage at Union Transfer in Philadelphia Oct. 7 to play for a nearly sold-out crowd of patient and graciously waiting fans. Everyone on the 21+ balcony had a beer in hand, ready to enjoy the night ahead. Everywhere I turned I saw a smiling face and fans chattering about how excited they were to have The Kooks back in the U.S.
The band’s show was one of a few dates they toured in the U.S. to back their most recent album, “Listen,” which was released in late April of this year. The British band is made up of frontman Luke Pritchard on guitar and vocals, Hugh Harris on lead guitar, Peter Denton on bass and drummer Alexis Nunez. This was the first album with their new member since the departure of Paul Garred on drums and he did an awesome job playing the part; you would’ve never known he hadn’t been around since day one.
The band has mentioned that they draw their sounds from a lot of the 1960s British Invasion bands that they sound like, such as The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and The Who. It’s hard to compare them to such big bands, but the similarities are there.
The opening acts were Priory — an electro-pop duo from Portland, Oregon, consisting of Brandon Rush and Kyle Sears — and Halsey from New York, the latter backed by a full band. Both openers played energetic sets and kept the crowd stoked to see The Kooks.
Halsey really caught my attention with her bright blue hair and energetic stage presence. She danced all over the stage and interacted with the crowd. Halsey mentioned that she’d gotten the opportunity to see some of her favorite bands play at Union Transfer over the years and loved the ability to be able to stand where they stood. Halsey will continue with The Kooks for the remainder of their short North American tour.
It was easy to notice that a majority of the crowd on this particular night was made up of young girls in their late teens and early 20s, awaiting the British rock band from Brighton. I remember listening to The Kooks in high school and telling everyone that they were one of my favorite bands.
To the right of the stage, in a giant spotlight for the entirety of the night, stood an interpreter signing the words to every song in American Sign Language. I’d seen this done at music festivals over the summer, but this was a first for Philadelphia shows. The band members would dance with her and interact with her while she tried to sign with a straight face. At one point Pritchard came over and joked about stealing her lyrics because he might forget the words.
Pritchard didn’t say much throughout the night except for throwing in a casual, “this songs’ for you guys, please sing along!” They played the hits like “Junk of the Heart (Happy),” “Bad Habit,” “Naive,” “She Moves in Her Own Way,” and a bunch of songs off the new album — such as “Around Town,” “Forgive & Forget,” “Westside,” “See Me Now” and “Down.” They played from song to song and didn’t stop to talk to the crowd or tell any stories, they let their music speak. The band left the stage towards the middle of the set, leaving Pritchard standing alone in a spotlight on the stage with his acoustic guitar to play “Seaside” and “Dreams,” one of the songs from their newest release.
The Kooks are so much fun to see live and sound better live than in studio-recorded albums. Any time I attend a concert, my night is usually affected by my interest in the performers, the venue space itself, the crowd and the overall experience and this night had all of those things. It’s always nice to have The Kooks back in the States. If you missed them this time around, you definitely won’t want to miss them next time.