Celebrating their 15th anniversary of their iconic debut album ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ (really their 16th due to Covid delays), The Kooks finally took to the stage at Melbourne’s Festival Hall for an intimate celebration of an album that helped shape their career and their journey thus far.
Admittedly, I hadn’t initially listened to their album when it was first released in 2006. Shameful, I know. But there is always a music artist that you discover much later and still fall in love with, and for me, that is The Kooks.
Taking to the stage to a keen, diverse Melbourne audience, Luke Pritchard came out first with an acoustic guitar to serenade every ear he could reach with ‘Seaside’. Pritchard’s clear and beautiful vocals instantly enchanted the entirety of the venue, to the point that when he was joined by his fellow bandmates; Hugh Harris on the keyboard and guitar, Jonathan Harvey on the bass, and Alexis Nunez on the drums, the crowd were already eating out of the palm of his hand.
As this tour is in celebration of ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ with majority of the setlist from that album; ‘See The World’, ‘Ooh La’, and ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’, I found that the gems of the night weren’t actually from the debut album. ‘Bad Habit’ is already phenomenal with its melody, harmonisation, the way the drums kick in, and how every instrument and every vocal of the track comes together to create magic. I daresay, it is even better when performed live. ‘Do You Wanna’ oozes excellence with its catchy question and guitar riffs, and the song ‘Connection’ from The Kooks’ latest and sixth studio album ‘10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark’ was also excellent live as it showcased Pritchard’s incredible mutant lungs (this is a compliment), leaving many in the audience in awe.
Over the last few days of my Kooks education, I learnt very quickly that part of The Kooks’ charm is that lyrically everything is simple, straightforward, and honest, but also extremely eloquent, heartfelt, and poetic. Their songs are so well written, yet super catchy, and are never too difficult to learn or be captivated by, whether it be an impressive guitar riff or the sweet melody of a chorus. Although these songs that kickstarted The Kooks’ career continue to provide fun nostalgia trips to both fans and the band alike, while they have grown, The Kooks have never lost their identity and their unique sound.
Regardless of whether a song was new or old on the setlist, everything felt consistent and seamless. If I didn’t know any better, you could have fooled me that they were all part of the same album. And while most are, there is a clear consistency and sincerity to The Kooks’ music and evolution that I haven’t seen in most artists these days. This is among the many reasons on why this band is so beloved.
Overjoyed, for some fans, like me, this was their first time seeing The Kooks perform live. For others, this performance may have been their first concert coming out of the Covid restriction era. For everyone, witnessing The Kooks live was pure joy. Like a choir and almost religious experience, everyone was happy swaying, dancing, bopping along and singing to every number. While lyrically stunning, their songs are also very upbeat and uplifting. Even ‘You Don’t Love Me’ despite it’s serious, painful and romantic undertones, the still somehow left me beaming.
Disappearing from the stage momentarily around the end of the set. The Melbourne audience stomped their feet together on the Festival Hall floor to create a thunderous call for The Kooks to return. I could feel the floor move, like a mini earthquake, but instead of fear, it was filled with a united love for the incredible English pop-rock band. The Kooks acknowledged the atmosphere too, sharing that the energy in venue and performing in Melbourne felt like they were ‘coming home’. This soon followed with their final and most famous number ‘Naïve’, which inspired the Melbourne audience to erupt with happiness.
As a new fan, I was surprised by how diverse the crowd was, and yet when we were all singing along to the same songs, I was reminded that we weren’t so different after all. It didn’t matter if you were a new or old, we were just having a good time (no pressure, but pun intended). To quote The Kooks themselves, “I wanna make you happy”, and they most certainly did.
The Kooks performed in Melbourne on Thursday the 6th of October 2022 at Festival Hall and are touring Australia as part of the Grapevine Gathering Festival and their Inside In/Inside Out 15th Anniversary Tour.
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Photography by Grant Alexander.