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The Kooks at The Belvoir

– by Leah Vlatko

The Kooks, Saturday 17 January, Belvoir Amphitheatre

Supported by: Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Griswolds

In the afterglow of a spectacular sunset, my friend and I settled into our cosy patch of grass. Bringing a picnic dinner to the beautiful Belvoir Amphitheatre is always an excellent choice, and hummus under the stars is always perfect. Even more excellent about this night was the line-up that awaited us. The three bands of the evening promised solid guitars, catchy melodies, and charismatic performances, and they did not disappoint.

Catfish and the Bottlemen opened with enthusiasm and style, rewarding those who had arrived early enough for their set. These Welsh lads have had a huge 2014, releasing the hugely popular debut album The Balcony, and getting picked for the EA SPORTS FIFA 15 soundtrack.  Scoring heaps of attention on songs ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Cocoon’ (both of which have been getting a lot of airplay on Triple J) the band blessed those gathered with playing these catchy hits, along with many more tracks that showcased this indie rock band’s talent for playing real good music (think Artic Monkeys meets Oasis).  Excitement dripped from every moment of their time on stage, and the band shared their thrill to be touring with such a high profile band as The Kooks. ‘This is our first time at a venue like this,’ frontman Van McCann shared. He went on to ask the lighting team if they could fill the stage with strobes, ‘so we can look like U2 and s***.’ The lighting team did, and it was amazing. Definitely a band that’s blowing up big time, an important one to watch.

Sydney boys The Griswolds continued the high energy vibes into their incredible set. Frontman Chris Whithall, who was rocking loud leggings and boots (sounds very strange, but trust me it was on point), apologised for his lack of cute foreign accent (I wanted to say I didn’t mind, but I was a little bit in love with Catfish and the Bottlemen’s adorable accents and it was tough to return to the Aussie sound) (they definitely made up for it though). Also riding the back of a pretty big year, this band put on a powerful performance which demonstrated their (highly justified) popularity. Having released debut album, Be Impressive, last year, The Griswolds had no trouble hyping up the crowd into an excited buzz, and the crowd had no trouble singing along to their catchiest tunes. ‘We were pretty excited when we got the call to say we were supporting The Kooks,’ said Whitehall, bringing a down-to-earth, human element to their out-of-this-world act.

When The Kooks sauntered onto the stage there was a thrilled cheer from the crowd. Everyone was ridiculously excited to be there in that moment (I was enjoying avocado and Turkish bread but between mouthfuls I too was very excited). When we talked to frontman Luke Pritchard in a recent interview, he shared that he was looking forward to playing new songs on stage. I was eager to see how their more improvised style would play out, but also hopeful of hearing some early guitar-band vibes. So often bands embrace a new style and neglect their early works, leaving behind fans who have been there since the start. I am glad to say that, for this show at least, The Kooks were not that kind of band. In their eighteen-song set list, roughly seven of those songs were Inside In/ Inside Out favourites, seven were Listen groovers, and the rest were split between Konk and Junk of the Heart. The four diverse albums all made appearances, and it was striking the differences in sounds. Whilst the transitions seem natural (oh what a smooth band these lads are) there was outstanding versatility in Pritchard’s killer groovy dance moves in funky, self-described ‘electric church music’ tracks such as ‘Around Town’ and solo acoustic, stripped-back numbers such as ‘Seaside’.

The encore brought us the three big tunes of ‘See Me Now’, ‘Junk of the Heart (Happy)’, and crowd-favourite ‘Naïve’. ‘See Me Now’ was particularly moving, and the amphitheatre shone with audience members waving lit phone screens in support of Pritchard’s deeply personal track dealing with the loss of his father.

Overall, the night was an incredible showcase of powerful ‘guitar-bands’, and The Kooks proved their chameleon-like ability to rock across genres. The beauty of the night outshone even the most awful drivers who managed to annoy hundreds in the tight carpark following the show (don’t worry, Belvoir, I still think you’re a beautiful venue)(red ute who cut me off not so much).

Photo Credit: The Kooks’ Facebook Page (Photos of the show coming soon)

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