The Kooks: Spanish Hall, Winter Gardens, Blackpool; Wednesday, August 23
Luke Pritchard and his vest-wearing cohorts go coastal – swapping their hometown of Brighton for Blackpool
Let’s get this straight – the British seaside is a grim place. Not for us warm, undulating turquoise seas and sun-kissed sandy beaches littered with bronzed beauties topping up their tans. Instead we get condoms and tampons washed up onshore, hen parties pissed up on alcopops and saccharine snacks that are making our nation’s kids some of the most obese in the world. And that’s on a good day.
Blackpool has all the faded glamour of Elizabeth Taylor whacked out on codeine and brandy. On the seafront you can purchase whatever misogynist-sloganed T-shirt you like and the only food on sale that isn’t bright pink and made of solid sugar is chips, chips and more chips.
So this is where The Kooks and their overtly cheerful brand of almost universally loved classic pop-rock step in. For such a scene of desperation, it’s well overdue.“Everyone plays the same old fucking venues,” says cherubic pop prince Luke Pritchard. “We played Torquay a few days ago and I met some people before the gig who told me no-one ever plays there. These seaside gigs are more edgy than normal – we’ve been playing venues that aren’t meant to be venues… ballrooms and shit.”
The Winter Gardens are an utterly hilarious and rather worryingly confused setting. The Kooks are playing in the Spanish Hall – “tacky but cool” ponders Luke – a dodgy old space normally used for wedding receptions and conferences for middle managers from Loughborough that has been made to resemble an Andalusian village. The adjoining bar is decked out like a medieval hall and just round the corner you can splash out on more booze in a pub that looks like the inside of a boat – the place delves new lows in kitsch. The Kooks are not dressed as matadors or flamenco dancers in homage to their surroundings; framed by a huge Spanish arch, it’s straw hats, grey cardigans and drainpipes all the way – quite possibly the most copied indie look since Pete and Carl rocked up with their guardsman’s jackets.
There is one way and one way alone to kick off a gig in this coastal town and that’s with ‘Seaside’, the beautiful acoustic opener from their album that makes you think that, while not a lot is possible in towns like this, romance certainly is. An utterly epic ‘See The World’ then rattles out, the band blazing as they hurtle into their high-energy set that bristles with sheer, unfettered enthusiasm. Luke dashes from one side of the stage to the other like a crowd-baiting teen-pop idol and regales us with the first-rate ‘Eddie’s Gun’ – rarely has impotence been so satisfying. However, it seems The Kooks are bringing the house down in more ways than one. Suddenly the band are rushed offstage to bewildered looks all round, only to return five minutes later with the announcement that the audience’s incessant jumping is causing the ceiling tiles in the venue below to rain on the punters sat idly watching Cannon & Ball. Rock on Tommy, indeed. (ask someone over the age of 30 with limited taste if that makes no sense). “You’re just going to have to calm down and stop jumping,” announces a worried Luke, and the obedient crowd grudgingly oblige. It doesn’t stay that way for long though: as soon as the opening bars of ‘Naive’ make contact with their eardrums, all is forgotten and it’s like they’re on bloody springs. Even a soothing acoustic version of ‘Jackie Big Tits’ can’t quell their fervour now, and we later hear that an emergency evacuation of Cannon & Ball had to be carried out – which probably resulted in more smiles than the rest of their show did. Why can’t all summer breaks be like this, eh?