Between the White Stripes, Alexisonfire and Kings Of Leon, things are looking rough for rock stars these days. Not so for rock bombshell Alison Mosshart, who ended two nights at New York’s Terminal 5 August 9 with her hit-making soulmate Jamie Hince as the angst-pop duo the Kills. Although Mosshart and Hince share the stage and noisemaking duties, Mosshart is undeniably the star of the show and thus bears the burden of fiercely projecting the Kills’ no-frills grunge couture image as far back as the bright stage lights behind her. She has to walk the line between being the polished performer and hitmaker required of a musician hired to play two nights at one of New York’s largest venues and being convincingly rock ‘n’ roll the way her sour cherry fans want to relate to her. When half the band is married to Kate Moss, it’s reasonable to worry that Mosshart might be more Taylor Momsen than Joan Jett, but it was the latter who showed up to the VIP section on the Kills’ second night.
Mosshart is, thankfully, not too perfectly and beautifully punk in person, but she does put the “chic” in “rocker chick.” She has a standard uniform—ratty band shirt under leopard-print blouse, black skinny jeans, ankle boots—a sultry stare, the stage presence of a lioness and a sense of cool detachment she shares with Hince. Before lurching into “Satellite,” she buries her face in a (black) towel and then stretches, languidly, leaning forward to arch her back with both hands wrapped around the mic stand. During “You Don’t Own The Road,” she busts her perfectly manicured rock thrash-dance moves, shaking an uncoiffed head of dyed black hair into her face, jerking her body back and forth, sinking to the ground to hunch around the microphone—and when the song ends, from her crouch on the stage floor she delivers a delicate and composed “Thank you” to her audience. Mosshart’s moves are so fine-tuned she could make instructional how-to videos on how execute them.
Hince, as much the picture of Rock Bassist as Mosshart is Rocker Chick, is understated where Mosshart is dramatic, allowing him to remain composed throughout the set without restlessly prowling the stage or writhing around like his cohort. His haggard looks are more handsome live, gruff but not unkempt, and next to Mosshart’s more flamboyant clothes, his all-black everything is aloof and subdued. Occasionally he takes center stage to hammer out a solo, but he is a grown-up rock star who doesn’t lose his poise or freak the fuck out and scream and smash his guitar on an amp before diving headfirst into the crowd and punching out his biggest fan.
The Kills’ distance and aplomb is an integral part of the duo’s aesthetic: We are the victims of our unmanageable emotions, but we hold it in like a corset against bulging flesh. Hince and Mosshart have their art down to a science: They play the same set both nights, they hit all their moves with panache, and it takes them exactly an hour to crank out 12 songs before breaking long enough for Hince to goose his new bride and stroll back onstage for an encore. Show’s out by 11:04, and everyone can get home in time to get some sleep before work or summer school tomorrow. The Kills is a professional, poised and aloof team, as if the two of them can feel the videos going up on YouTube as they perform. Mosshart’s most vulnerable moment is also her most theatrical: During an encore performance of “The Last Goodbye,” she lowers her head to gaze out at her massive audience from behind her bangs, eyes slightly squinted. It’s a long, intense, smoldering stare, as if she’s at once posing for all the fans taking photos and trying to drink in the feeling of performing in front of thousands of people one last time before hitting the next town. She stalks, slowly, still staring, to the other microphone and lets her head drop to her chest.
All photos by Adela Loconte
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