The Kooks

By Poppy Tohill

Artist:  The Kooks

Date / Venue:  Thursday January 15th, Vector Arena, Auckland

Is it too early on in the year to call this the best concert of 2015? Maybe, but nonetheless I'm going to, because I have no doubt that there's many acts who can top what The Kooks gave us.

Seven years coming, this is the second time the British rock group have graced New Zealand with their presence, although the first time they've had their own headlining show here, and the fans who piled intoVector Arena seemed more than ready to dance the night away to both The Kooks classic oldies, and newbies from their latest studio album, ‘Listen.'

As the stage lit up the red backdrop displaying ‘THE KOOKS' in bold black writing followed suit as the four piece appeared on stage, not wasting any time as they kicked into an energetic and enthusiastic performance of ‘Listen' album opener, ‘Around Town.'

It became clearer as the night went on that most songs didn't need an introduction, each receiving screams and cheers from the ecstatic audience which only grew louder tailing each songs beginning and end.

It didn't take long for the crowd to put on their dancing shoes, as The Kooks took it back to their 2006 debut album ‘Inside In/Inside Out' with ‘See The World,' which saw the entire audience dance and wave their hands about, making it fairly obvious that the crowd were going to do everything it took to ensure The Kooks that we love their music, and really just everything about them.

Unsurprisingly, ‘Ooh La' and ‘Eddie's Gun' from the same album proved popular crowd favourites, each receiving the same level of rapturous shouts, screams and applause.

"We really appreciate you guys for coming out!" Luke Pritchard, the bands lead singer and front man acknowledged in his thick East Sussex accent, before introducing the next song, ‘It Was London,' as being "one off the new record."

"Auckland. Woah beautiful!" Pritchard exclaimed as the song soon came to an end. "Do you like singing, how are your voices?" he almost teased, asking the audience. Launching into a practice of the classic ‘oh, oh, oh, oh's,' Pritchard needn't ask twice, as the entire audience sung at the top of their lungs, excited for what was to come as the band pleased with the crowd's singing launched into their hit single ‘Bad Habit.'

Pritchard and the band were well on form last night, there was no second doubting that as they danced around the entire stage from left to right, proving to be enjoying themselves and having just as much fun as their abundance of adoring fans so obviously were.

Album title track ‘Down' proved another crowd favourite, although not quite as popular as the song that followed. "You have no idea how long we've been waiting to play this gig," Pritchard announced as ‘Down' came to a conclusion. "It's only our second time in New Zealand, but hey we made it back!" he chuckled. "This song we're about to play is a really old one from our first album. A lot of you must have been really young when this was released. I mean, we were young, but you guys.. oh my gosh," he joked.  Then without further a do, they launched into ‘She Moves In Her Own Way,' which to no surprise sent the crowd into a wild dancing and singing frenzy, as the band themselves put all of their energy and effort into the popular hit which of course remained a highlight of the night for many, if not all.

The favourite and popular hits came thick and fast after that, as the band left the stage leaving Pritchard in a spotlight by himself, acoustic guitar in hand, to perform the most perfect presentation of their soft and dreamy hit ‘Seaside.'

After an exceptional solo acoustic performance of ‘Dreams' from Pritchard, drummer Peter Denton kicked into the familiar introductory beat and rhythm of ‘Westside,' as the remainder of the band soon returned to the stage for an energetic performance, which saw someone throw pink lingerie at Pritchard as he stood on the speaker to encourage everyone to clap and wave their hands in the air, which didn't take much persuasion, I might add.

‘Sweet Emotion' from their most recent album proved another popular tune with the crowd, as did ‘Sofa Song'another favourite from their debut album ‘Inside In/Inside Out,' both receiving an exceptional amount of dancing and singing contribution from the audience, not the mention the ongoing and repetitive shouts and cries from excited fans.

Too soon for my liking they announced it was time for their last song, followed by the most energetic and exceptional performance of ‘Forgive and Forget' you could possibly ever imagine. Executing the last bit of energy they had left to the extreme as they danced from every corner of the stage possible, each member of the band went just as crazy, as their fans were simultaneously doing so. As the lights slowly faded mid song, a bright spotlight soon returned on Pritchard who had put aside his guitar and now held two maracas which he stood at the front of the stage shaking to his hearts content. As everyone clapped along to the beat, more singing and dancing from both parties drew the song to an end in an exquisite manner.

Before the band were given even a second to disappear off stage, the audience were beckoning and requesting their return for an encore. "We want more! We want more!" and "Naive, Naive!" were the popular chants that reigned the encore and of course in a matter of minutes the band had returned to the stage for an encore that on its own was enough to make this the concert of the year.

"I wrote this song for my Dad when I was quite young" Pritchard explained, upon his return to the stage. "Recently a friend of ours passed away, and so this one is dedicated to his family who are actually here tonight," he went on.

Taking a seat at a keyboard to the left of the stage, a single spotlight once again shone down on the front man as he performed an emotional and heart-wrenching representation of ‘See Me Now.'  A lively performance of the upbeat ‘Junk Of The Heart (Happy)' followed to help lift the mood back to its high energy status, in preparation for the best finale possible.

Of course if you don't even know The Kooks that well I can confidentially bet you would have come across their most famous and popular hit single, ‘Naive.' Whether it bee through a radio or television advertisement, that classic rhythmic guitar riff mixed with Pritchard's raw and unique vocals are something pretty memorable.

After 1 and a half hours of singing, dancing and screaming at the top of their lungs, you can imagine how ready the audience of adoring fans were to hear, probably if I'm being completely honest - the one song that most people in the entire Vector Arena came to hear that night.

I can't even begin to think of what words one could possibly use to sum up The Kooks performance of ‘Naive' but lets just leave it at saying, I think every teenager and young adult in the room flashed back to their younger naive selves, when one would dance around the bedroom singing the tune through a hairbrush (don't try to deny we all did it, even me & no I'm not ashamed) and danced and sung their arses off as if their lives depended on it. You could have easily even called it a life changing moment and I don't care how naive or cheesy that sounds, because if you were there last night I know you would understand.

One thing I also can't get by without pointing out is that unlike some groups who when performing live, sound very different to their clean and polished studio recordings, The Kooks sound identical if not better in a raw, live setting. Besides the sweat and heat radiating off everyone's bodies, you could close your eyes and it would sound just as if you were listening to their record at home. The progression between each song was nothing but natural as was their entire nights performance.

The band tight and professional sure know how to put on a good show and there's no denying it, believe you me.