Brighton, England's The Kooks swooped into the first of two sold-out LA small club shows at The Troubadour. Still touring for 2006's debut Inside In/Inside Out, the young lads delivered their catchy indie pop songs with plenty of joie de vivre to keep the Thursday crowd tuned in.
It's easy to lump The Kooks in with the countless other British bands to flood the college radio scene in recent years. Not quite as danceable as Franz Ferdinand,as brash and punky as The Arctic Monkeys, or as crass as Jamie T., they sort of fall into the Adult-Alternative genre of fellow Astralwerks labelmates Athlete crossed with this-rocks-i-just-wish-the-rest-of-the-album-did favorites Bloc Party.
Half the band was apparently going for a farmer/serf theme as lead man Luke Pritchard was decked out in his open-cut farmboy shirt. It complemented his bare bones telecaster that looked as though it was parted out, then used as a weather vane for 20 years. Nary a knob or pickup selector existed on it. If Pritchard was the peasant, then lead guitarist Hugh Harris was the estate lord with his wide-brimmed fedora and black vest. Fortunately for the other two members, rookie Don Logan (Bass) and Paul Garred (Drums), they weren't given the memo that the band was playing dress-up tonight.
The hour long set was filled with nearly every track on their only released album plus 3 samplers from their upcoming sophomore release, Konk, due out in April. While the new songs showed promise in the bands inevitable maturity, no one came to see how the band had blossomed over the years. People wanted to hear the singles as evidenced by the shrieking girls at the start of Naive (Which by the way always reminds me of Presidents of the United States Peaches). To be fair to the guys in the crowd, nearly as many goateed, early 20-somethings were singing along to every word alongside the teenage girls in the front row. Interjected between the songs were enough "Luke, I love you!"'s to make one think they were at the premiere for season 2 of Beverly Hills 90210.
Perhaps the band needed to kill some time but the set list seemed designed to maximize the number of times Pritchard needed to switch between his electric and acoustic guitars. The one spontaneous moment of the night occurred when Pritchard began strumming the intro to Sofa Song. Within an instant of the crowd recognizing the intro, he broke a string. Fear not though, as a replacement was on his shoulder in T-minus 10 seconds.
Their encore began with thier album's first track Seaside featuring Pritchard a la carte. He played one more sans band then called them back to the stage one last hurrah.
The boys from Brighton infused their songs with as much gusto as they could but I think dragging their their album out from the 2006 archives for a refresher was as much Kooks as I needed. I can't imagine the show the following night at The Echo could have been that different from the Troubadour but splitting the crowds was a good move. A round of applause to their booking agent: When touring on one album, two sold out shows at small clubs is much better than one sold out show at The El Rey (oh hi Vampire Weekend, I didn't see you standing there).