Last Night: The Kooks and The Whigs at the House of Blues in Anaheim, Oct. 27, 2008.
Better Than: Joining the fledgling Modern Whig Party. William Henry Harrison, they ain't!
Download: This Kooks cover of “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John from early this year.
I'm not an eavesdropper in general, but sometimes, y'know, you just can't help it. Like when you overhear something like this, from one of the many enthralled young teenage fans leaving The Kooks concert at the House of Blues in Anaheim Monday night.
“If he had AIDS, I wouldn't care,” a clearly misguided young female said of (presumably) her answer to a theoretical offer of a sexual encounter with undeniably dreamy Kooks lead singer Luke Pritchard. “As long as he sang to me, it would be OK.” Pretty spicy talk for just a few yards away from a Build-A-Bear Workshop, and the type of heartfelt (albeit creepy) praise that Leif Garrett and David Cassidy never got a chance to receive.
And it was largely this type of enthusiastic, high school-aged fan that comprised the “so crowded it's not even fun” sold-out crowd, shrieking and cheering throughout the British band's nearly 90-minute set—a solid length for sure given the fact they only have two studio albums thus far, 2006's breakthrough debut “Inside In/Inside Out,” and “Konk,” released in April of this year.
Despite being eight days away from an election with global implications (especially for a close ally of the United States like Britain), there was absolutely zero political content coming from The Kooks. Nearly all of their songs are either sad love songs (like “Time Awaits,” which featured some nifty guitar work) or charming piffles like “Mr. Maker.” Their biggest hit to date, “Naive,” (you know it, even if you don't think you do. “I know, she knows, that I'm not found of asking”) didn't come as a closer but rather a few songs before the encore break, but elicited a roar just from the very recognizable first few notes.
For the encore, Pritchard, who only engaged in a minimum of chatter with the crowd, initially came out alone with just a small body acoustic guitar, and played four songs solo, including “Seaside” and “Jackie Big Tits” (a surprisingly sensitive song given the title). The rest of the band joined him on stage for closer “Tick of Time.”
The Kooks aren't radically different from many poppy indie rock types that have come out of the UK in the last few years (The Fratellis, Razorlight, The Rakes, to name a few), and have fallen far short of the critical acclaim that the Arctic Monkeys (another similar UK act) have received. Still, though, there's clearly something resonant about The Kooks that caused the Downtown Disney fans to respond so positively, and it probably wasn't just the ineffable “worth catching AIDS for” quality of Pritchard.
The Whigs, a trio hailing from Athens, Georgia (the musical hotbed that gave us diverse groups including R.E.M. and Of Montreal), opened the show with their garage-y southern rock. Whigs lead singer and guitarist Parker Gispert later joined The Kooks on stage for “Shine On,” adding some extra punch to the number. Like The Kooks, The Whigs are also promoting an album that came out earlier this year, the catchy “Mission Control.” It was clearly a Kooks crowd, though, which is disappointing given that The Whigs are arguably more musically interesting in a lot of ways.
Personal Bias: For the first time ever, I tried the House of Blues nachos. To quote the Weezer “Buddy Holly” video, “Not so good, Al.” This may have certainly affected how I viewed the performances.
Random Detail: The Kooks/Whigs merch booth was just selling apparel and posters, while their albums were being sold by a booth from increasingly-irrelevant big box retailer FYE.