It’s hard to believe that The Kills are five albums and almost 15 years deep into their career. On the heels of the June release of Ash & Ice, the duo crashed The Wiltern on Saturday night to perform what would be a career-spanning set of their manic-cum-sultry songs.

Autolux opened the show with an angular set anchored by Carla Azar’s asymmetrical and ferocious machine gun drumming. Material from their recent effort, the most memorably titled Pussy’s Dead, translated well in the live setting. Strong Amnesiac vibes emitted amidst an assault of strobe lights or whenever the trio would drop in to one of their signature disconcerting rhythmic pockets.

Considering that The Kills recorded a good portion of Ash & Ice in Los Angeles, it isn’t surprising that Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince appeared right at home at The Wiltern, skulking about the stage one moment, then pulling off 360-degree spin moves mid-guitar solo the next.

Perhaps, though, it should have been surprising; Hince’s career was almost derailed a few years ago by a hand injury that netted five surgeries, the loss of use of one finger, and a need to re-learn the guitar.

Undaunted, The Kills’ performance strutted with a dirty confidence from the get go. “U.R.A. Fever” brimmed with Beck-esuqe collaged absurdism: “Find a piece of silver (Pretty as a diagram) / And go down to the Rio (Put it in my left hand) / Put it in a fruit machine (Everyone’s a winner) / Laughin’ like a seagull.”

The bluesed out “Kissy Kissy” simultaneously flirted with the salacious (“I’m gonna stab your kissy kissy mouth”) and the violent (“I’m gonna stab your kissy kissy heart”), a perverted duality that reared its head with cyclical frequency throughout the evening.

While much of the performance was driven by a commanding moodiness, there were interludes of relative levity, in sound if not in lyrics. In “Baby Says,” Mosshart cooed, “There’s death in these silver curls / that break up in jails / send you diving for pearls / without a care in the world.”

Similarly, the delicate piano fills in “Goodnight Bad Morning” belied its desperate lyrics: “Jailers in my mind are all dead / I love you so much, never forget / our love, our secrets, coming undone / what a beautiful state we’re in.”

Tasteful visual elements augmented the set. Glittery lights appropriately accompanied the glitchy “Tape Song,” while a large mural of palm trees and volcanoes loomed behind the band. The emerald glow in “Future Starts Slow” created an Oz-like backdrop for its otherwise twisted words, “You can holler, you can wail / you can swing, you can flail / you can fuck like a broken sail.”

The set peaked with the one-two punch of “Pots and Pans” and “Monkey 23.” The former unraveled with a Wonka loop that easily could’ve segued into “Oompa loompa doompety doo.” Instead, it morphed in to “Monkey,” a track off of the twelve-year-old Keep Mean On Your Side. The bright chords of the intro sounded like Jeff Buckley warming up his guitar for the unforgettable “Last Goodbye.” The tune proved to be true slow roast, as Mosshart eventually belted the melodically beautiful and simple lyrics that finally released with a forgiving and powerful pop.

Ms. Mosshart reappeared alone to start the encore with Ash & Ice dagger track “That Love.” The hot and bothered room took a breath while she strummed a guitar and reminded all that, “That love you’re in is a fucking joke.”

Anyone devastated by these sobering lyrics was soon granted reprieve via the uber-erotic “Siberian Nights.” It was enough to make a grown man blush as Mosshart intimated, “I could whip you up like cream…I could make you come in threes / I’m half way to my knees.”



Just how far things had progressed along the emotional arc in the eight or so minutes from “That Love” to “Siberian Nights” served as a slap-in-the-face reminder that The Kills’ oft-poured cocktail of sex/desperation/wastedness (repeat) is one hell of a filthy concoction.

The Kills at The Wiltern Setlist:

Heart of a Dog
U.R.A. Fever
Kissy Kissy
Hard Habit to Break
Impossible Tracks
Black Balloon
Doing It to Death
Baby Says
Tape Song
Goodnight Bad Morning
Whirling Eye
Pots and Pans
Monkey 23
No Wow
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That Love
Siberian Nights
Future Starts Slow
Sour Cherry

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The Kills