OAKLAND — As The Kills played Saturday at The Fox Theater in Oakland, a curtain draped behind them portrayed a nature scene: A volcano erupting amid a tropical setting with palm trees.
Whether it was meant to serve as a nod to the band’s most recent album, Friday’s Ash & Ice — its fifth LP and first in five years — or serving as a metaphor for the group’s live act, it worked.
Leading the charge Saturday was singer and guitarist Alison Mosshart, the duo’s twirling, dancing, strutting hot lava. Her stage presence carried the night, jumping, spinning, bending over backward, and even writhing on her back on the stage during “Heart of a Dog” as guitarist Jamie Hince prowled over her.
If Mosshart is the volcano, Hince is the tropical paradise around it, a calm, aware juxtaposition to the explosiveness nearby. The two share the stage in superb fashion, with Mosshart doing the heavy, theatrical lifting to draw in the crowd. However, Hince not without his charms, strutting to the lip of the stage to show off his guitar skills without competing with Mosshart.
On “Monkey 23,” he used her mic stand to play the neck of his guitar as his right hand worked the body. For “Kissy Kissy,” the two shared the vocals, including a moment when Hince walked over to Mosshart’s microphone to sing together.
Every song chugged. Even “Black Balloon,” a slower number, played up its percussive rhythm and Hince’s helicopter drone.
While Ash & Ice feels like more of the same from The Kills, Saturday’s gig showed that the material fits snugly with the duo’s more well-worn work. Throughout the 80-minute gig, they laid down a brisk tempo and kept the performance quality high throughout, even through weaker songs.
That meant that when they climbed higher, they stepped there boldly. On “Pots and Pans,” which built its stomping groove to a flashy finish, Hince held down the front of the stage while Mosshart moved to percussion. As the song erupted, Mosshart moved back to the microphone, coaxing fans to join them as the song escalated into a dizzying mayhem.
So while Ash & Ice might feel like familiar territory for The Kills, insofar as Hince and Mosshart’s live act is concerned, Saturday was a testament to how they are as strong as ever.
Opening band L.A. Witch was a welcome addition to the lineup, playing approximately 35 minutes of hard-charging rock that shifted time signatures, but still built to successful peaks.
The Kills setlist
Heart Is a Beating Drum
Hard Habit to Break
Heart of a Dog
Doing it to Death
Pots and Pans
Fried My Little Brains