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Full disclaimer: Before seeing Love and Rockets at Kings Theatre, I wasn’t the world’s biggest obsessive of the group. Now, it wasn’t like I was looking them up on Wikipedia during the show, but neither was I a diehard fan. Probably just because I wasn’t handed a mix cd as a teenager with them on it. I only say this beforehand so the internet version of a dude saying “name three songs” to an unsuspecting stranger wearing a band shirt doesn’t happen to me. But the truth is, it was seeing them live that everything suddenly clicked. Having the evidence right before my eyes, I now know what makes Love and Rockets so great, and it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say the group are still at the peak of their powers.
Emerging from the ashes of a Bauhaus reunion, Love and Rockets played their first New York show in over twenty years to an adoring crowd who clearly cherished every single moment they could hold onto with post-punk icons Daniel Ash (guitar and vox), Kevin Haskins (drums), and David J (bass and vox). The band started with a thundering trio of classics – “I Feel Speed,” “No Big Deal,” and “Kundalini Express” before settling into slower, dreamier fare such as “The Dog-End of a Day Gone By” and the anthemic “No New Tale to Tell.” Another highlight was the high velocity version of “Mirror People” which sounded like they were playing it even faster than the rerecorded ‘88 single release. For their encore(s) they played fan favorites “Holiday on the Moon” and “Love Me,” followed by their hit cover version of the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion,” before ending on a poetically understated note with “Sweet F.A.”
The band tore through eighteen songs at a blistering pace without stopping. There was not a single “time to go grab a beer” moment as the band held the audience in thrall for the entire show, and like the sunglasses all three members wear, the atmosphere only added to the mystique of the band. The design of the stage was similarly stripped back, and behind the band was a simple white screen with a series of holes cut in it for the backlights to poke through. Like their music, the appearance was unpretentious yet dramatic, straightforward yet deceptively emotional.
Although there would be no live debut of freshly written material by Love and Rockets, they sounded so fresh, so alive, and so much like a new band and they gripped the audience so effortlessly that by the time the concert was over, it was impossible not to want new songs. The closest thing they came to this in the setlist was “My Dark Twin” an unreleased song from the recording sessions of their 1996 album Sweet F.A. It was recently released on a compilation of outtakes from the period also titled My Dark Twin, and it was a fantastic addition that made one wonder how it hadn’t been released before.
Hopefully this tour is not the band’s swansong and Love and Rockets will continue to play live. At the risk of sounding too greedy, one can only dream that they will record another album as well.
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