This time last year, The Kooks were just about to release their second single and all but a handful of dedicated fans had heard of them. 12 months on, they’ve caused chaos in the NME/Radio 1 Tent at the Leeds Festival and tonight appear to have tempted the entire population of Sheffield to the Octagon on a wet and cold October night.
This was the first date since the tour was unexpectedly curtailed after lead Kook Luke Pritchard succumbed to a bout of laryngitis and tonsillitis, and there was a palpable sense of relief amongst the crowd when it was confirmed that tonight’s show was going ahead.
After Cat The Dog had ploughed through some catchy, if rather derivative rock (the lead singer had read his ‘how to sing like Liam Gallagher’ handbook cover to cover by the sound of things), it was Larrikin Love’s turn to warm up the crowd. The only problem was that the crowd didn’t seem too responsive, greeting the band’s energetic mix of folk and indie with indifferent bemusement.
It was a shame, as on their day, Larrikin Love are one of the best live acts around. Twitchy frontman Edward Larrikin pelted around the stage bashing hell out of a cowbell, and the many highlights from The Freedom Spark were dusted down.
The soon to be classic early singles Six Queens, Edwould, Downing Street Kindling and Happy As Annie all sounded superb, even if they lose their more folky element in the live arena. The standout point of the band’s set though came with two non-album tracks, the woozy Cucumber, and the superb sea-shanty of John O’Ryan’s Polka Dot Skirt.
Yet the Kooks fans just seemed to be a bit nonplussed by Larrikin Love, with polite applause and head-nodding greeting each song – one gets the impression that they’re best experienced during their own headline show. Also, there was no Meet Me By The Getaway Car, which is verging on unforgivable.
So, onto the headliners for the evening, and by the time Luke Pritchard sauntered onto stage the roof was in danger of coming off the venue. A mass singalong greeted the opening Seaside, which led straight into See The World.
There seems to be a great deal of suspicion about The Kooks at the moment – whether it be due to the stage school background, the irrelevant fact that Pritchard used to go out with MOR queen Katie Melua, or maybe the fact that an awful lot of people seem to like them now, but there’s no denying the fact that they’ve released some of the catchiest, most likeable songs of the year.
The first half of the set seemed to be almost a greatest hits performance, with Ooh La, Eddie’s Gun and Matchbox all being dispatched with blistering pace. Pritchard doesn’t say much between songs, save for “thanks for coming” or suchlike, but the adoring crowd of teenage females (apart from your reviewer, I couldn’t spot one single person over 30 tonight) didn’t seem to care.
She Moves In Her Own Way (one of the contenders for ‘single of the summer’) was glorious, and the instantly recognisable opening guitar chords of Naive led the crowd to take over lead vocals from Pritchard for the first few lines.
The set’s momentum dipped a bit during the mid-section when new song Looby Lou (“It sounded better on iTunes” grumbled one fan as the song finished), and I Want You Back both seemed to meander a bit, but things were soon back on track with a blistering version of Sofa Song. An encore of an acoustic rendition of Jackie Big Tits and the sight of an unusually animated Pritchard diving into the crowd during You Don’t Love Me guaranteed that everyone went home happy.
It may not have been edgy or particularly hip, but it was definitely feel-good guitar pop of the highest order. Whether they’re just flavour of the month or a more long-term prospect remains to be seen, but for now 2006 belongs to The Kooks.