SAN FRANCISCO — The Kooks finally made it back across the pond. The Brighton, England band was set to perform last October but ended up canceling the tour to work on its new album instead. The wait was worth it. While Let’s Go Sunshine won’t be released until August, the band was here in town for its “Best Of” tour.
Taking the stage to a medley of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys, the Kooks launched into a spastic version of “Eddie’s Gun,” which came fierce and fast.
New song “Be Who You Are” followed, with the band’s trademark “ta ta ta and da da da’s” were sung in harmony. Frontman Luke Pritchard wasted no time by going back to The Kooks’ early songs. His vocals soared, turning the hall into a stadium. The band performed as if it were playing the largest of venues, showing how touring with The Rolling Stones had helped them grow its stage show.
As Pritchard went into “Bad Habit,” he mentioned the band would be playing many songs off its 2006 debut, Inside In / Inside Out, and that he expected fans to dance. He himself worked the stage, dancing back and forth, grabbing fans’ hands. It wasn’t long before he shed his jacket and button-down shirt. On “She Moves In Her Own Way,” he played the charmer, singing, “But uh oh, I love her because she moves in her own way.”
Together with guitarist Hugh Harris and bassist Peter Denton, Pritchard created lush harmonies. Harris played keys on “Westside,” while Pritchard danced across the stage and mugged for cameras. The song turned into a massive singalong.
“We’re just some lads from England and it never ceases to amaze me how many people from San Francisco come out to see us,” Pritchard said at one point.
New cut “All The Time” had anthemic, cheesy choruses that recalled the Backstreet Boys, even as the band had tried to move aways from the boy band image in the past.
From that and other heavy pop songs, The Kooks changed it up and played the funky, soulful “Down,” from 2014’s Listen. But it was the heartfelt “See Me Now,” dedicated to Pritchard’s late father, that tugged at heartstrings as the frontman sat at the keyboard alone on stage, raw emotion in his voice.
For fans of the Kooks, this set contained nearly everything one could want. The cheeky Pritchard charmed fans with the singalong chorus of “Do You Wanna,” singing “Do you wanna/ Do you wanna make love to me?” The crowd sang the response: “I know you want to make love to me.” Then Harris performed the soft “Fa La La” solo with an electric guitar.
The encore had Pritchard performing “Seaside” on an acoustic guitar. That led to “Always Where I Need To Be,” which had some killer drum solos by Alexis Nunez and the band’s first hit, “Naive.”
The show could best be summed up with “Junk of the Heart (Happy)” with the cheery lyrics “I wanna make you happy, I wanna make you feel alive” along with “we’re just having a good time, honey” from new song “No Pressure” a slow-jam, The Kooks couldn’t have chosen more perfect songs to express the sentiment of the night.
The Academic, an Irish quartet, opened the show. The band ranged from anthemic rock to catchy indie pop. Frontman Craig Fitzgerald chatted with fans and was overall engaging, dancing and tapping his feet.