The first thing that was really striking about walking into Festival Hall tonight was how young the majority of the crowd attending was. It was positive and a bit heartwarming to see such numbers of young patrons at Festival Hall.
The gathering masses were greeted by Sydney band Toucan. Playing as a three piece with added live drums, the rather charming band, featuring keyboardist/multi instrumentalist Shea Duncan and singer Jess Pollard proceeded to warm up and entertain the assembling crowd. Featuring tracks from their latest EP Brave New World, Toucan’s sound and musical vision took on a stronger sense of sound and definition in a live setting than it does on record. Featuring great tracks in their set such as “Age Of Consequence”, “Mister Television” and the fantastic “On The Run”, this is a band whose sound recalls some great synthesiser-based pop from the early part of the 1980s, from bands such as The Human League, Heaven 17 and Yazoo. A very entertaining set from a very promising new band.
Formed in Brighton, England in 2001, The Kooks are heavily influenced by bands from the early ’60s period known as ‘The British Invasion’, where British bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones conquered America. They also hold a definite sense of affection for distinctly British musical genres such as 1990s Britpop and other left-of-centre musical genres such as ska and reggae. This musical mixture and melting pot can be heard quite strongly over the course of three albums, the latest of which, Junk Of The Heart, was released late last year.
Tonight’s performance, while showing off the group’s solid way with a song and a great understanding of melodic, guitar-based pop, felt empty and somewhat lacking for several reasons. Firstly, the sound mix was, at times, quite distorted and uneven in that it tended to favour the left hand side of the venue. This resulted in lead singer Luke Pritchard, a singer with quite a thick Brighton accent to begin with, often sounding distorted and unintelligible, especially when speaking to the crowd between songs.
Some solid tracks were played this evening, such as the utterly infectious “Always Where I Need To Be”, new tracks “Rosie”, a great version of “Seaside”, performed acoustic and solo by Pritchard, and the excellent “Shine On”. However, the band merely seemed to be going through the motions most of the time with their performance. There was no spark or energy to the way the songs were performed.
Tonight’s crowd seemed very easy to please and were lapping up every moment, as they were when Pritchard walked along the front of the stage, striking various poses with his guitar and asking ‘You alright” intermittently, like a teenager posing in front of a mirror with a tennis racquet for a guitar, but on a much grander scale. It all seemed a bit like shooting fish in a barrel as far as stagecraft and performance were concerned. This was one of the poorest efforts that this scribe has seen a frontman make with working a crowd in a long time. Like the rest of the band, there was zero personality or charisma emanating from Pritchard as a front man, The Kooks or what they were doing on stage.
One of the most interesting and compelling aspects of music is that it is an incredibly subjective art form. What can inspire and excite one person can leave another utterly cold. The majority of the young crowd were dancing and singing along to every word tonight. Unfortunately, this scribe was left quite indifferent by seeing The Kooks live and found them inoffensive and, at worst, bland and at times quite boring, a product of British music press hype more than anything else. This was a concert that really left no lasting impression whatsoever after leaving the venue. This was by no means a terrible gig, just not a particularly good one.
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– Neil Evans