This week, two Felix music editors graced O2 Brixton ready to unleash scathing critiques on the other guests of the night, BRIT-nominated indie royalty, The Kooks.
I’ll put it plainly: I was not expecting to be thrilled. I saw The Kooks at Leeds Fest in 2019 and a mix of incessant drizzle, a packed field and a lacklustre performance did not win me over. Conflictingly, anyone I spoke to who had seen the band at one of their own headline gigs raved about the energy and liveliness the band brought. After seeing them on the second night of their three-night run at O2 Brixton, I have been converted into the devout energetic camp. This was the best gig I’ve seen at the venue. I’ll admit the sample size is not huge (4) and the mathematicians will not be convinced by my conclusion, but I stand by it; the Kooks are an incredible live band.
After underestimating Storm Eunice (RIP O2 Arena), I made it to Brixton with minutes to spare after navigating the confusing (to my Fulham-inhabiting self) bus routes of south London. The Kooks began their set as I was queuing for a drink at the bar, so this was quickly skipped for a spot closer to the stage. Navigating the crowd, it was easy to infer the band were massive in the mid-2000s. The average demographic of the crowd is 30-year-old couples where one is obviously more invested in the band than the other. On the far end of this spectrum are the 15-year-olds just going through their indie phase - as the original fans once were back in 2006. The set is loved by everyone though with the band mainly playing hits from their first album.
After kicking off their set with a campfire-side acoustic sing-along to "Seaside", it is obvious the crowd are all devout fans of the band, so I feel slightly out of place in my neutrality towards them – but this is fast changing. Getting the crowd jumping, the whole band join lead singer Luke Pritchard for a raucous rendition of "See The World". Now, Pritchard states their intent, a playthrough of the band’s debut album Inside In / Inside Out as a celebration of the 15-year anniversary of its release, fitting for an Inside In / Inside Out 15th Anniversary Tour.
Firing through fan-favourites like "Sofa Song" and "Eddie’s Gun", my personal favourite Kooks song is finally reached as the band play through their first album in genuine listening order - "Ooh La". It reminds me of secondary school. It reminds me of going to house parties in my hometown. I admit I had a deep, deep Dark Fruits indie phase (minus any Gallagher-esque raincoats though). The crowd has been building in excitement through the whole set and this explodes as the first muddy notes of "She Moves In Her Own Way" echo through Brixton. I think it was then that I realised this was one of the loudest crowds I’d ever been in with shouts and screams applauding any action of the members of the band on stage.
After seven continuous 'Inside In/Inside Out' tracks, The Kooks finally reveal they have actually written other albums in the last 15 years, showing off hits like "Bad Habit" and "Junk Of The Heart (Happy)" while also sprinkling in the remaining songs from the debut album that we were there to honour. By the time the band left the stage, everyone was sated. However, one more thing remained if this was going to be a proper commemoration, the band’s biggest song – "Naïve". Returning to chants for one more song, Pritchard belted out a calming "No Pressure" before ending the night with "Naïve".
I wandered out of the gig with a new view of The Kooks, my experience at Leeds Fest rewritten, and now I would recommend to anyone to go see them if they get a chance, mainly down to the energy they bring to their sets and that the crowds belatedly reciprocate.