Last Saturday was a night I had been waiting for, for what felt like forever. I’ve been a little bit obsessed with the music of Teenage Kicks since I first heard Rational Anthems (which they informed me references the documentary on the making of the incredible film Apocalypse Now – Hearts of Darkness – more than the novel of the same name as I had interpreted, fyi) and the opportunity to see the full band live couldn’t happen soon enough. After missing them during NXNE for Brian Wilson, there was nothing that could keep me from this show.
I arrived just as they were setting up, and found myself right up front stage right, double vodka cran in hand, super pumped for what I was about to witness.
They began the set with the opening track from the EP, “Brooklyn Bridge” and I quickly realized placing myself next to the speaker at The Horseshoe was not the smartest idea I’ve ever had (but I’ve done it before and will do it again). I can still feel the music vibrating the air against me. But no fear of losing my hearing could make me move back for this set and potentially miss a moment of their performance. “Brooklyn Bridge” immediately had the packed crowds attention, although I think I may have been one of the only dorks singing along.
They followed up with an old song that they never recorded called “And Everybody Knows It,” which is easily as good as their new songs. I can only hope they decide to record it at some point.
Then came the song I was waiting for… my song of the summer… the catchiest tune I’ve heard this year that I love more than I can articulate – “Hearts of Darkness”. I’ve walked around the city with it on repeat for months, so seeing them perform it live was amazing. Its intensity doubles when you see how much passion they have and how happy they all are singing it to a crowd that is eating it up. If you were there and you weren’t dancing your ass off during it, you probably have no soul. “I dance on what remains of them.” Yes, yes I do.
“Middle of the Night”, a new song in their catalog, came next. Everyone seemed happy to hear something new and the track is a keeper that should definitely make it onto their next release. The problem with hearing new Teenage Kicks songs live is that their always incredible lyrics are a big part of why I hold them in such high regard, so I can’t wait until I can get my hands on a recording and find out exactly what the song is about.
“I Get What You Give”, my favorite from the 7 inch release, was played next. The crowd definitely knew this one and it was awesome to see it electric after watching them slow it down for the Live in Bellwoods series during NXNE.
I managed to drag my sister, who never ever goes to local shows, to this gig as I had played Teenage Kicks for her during my initial obsession with them, knowing she would like the somewhat Springsteen-ish sound they sometimes embody. “Lose Your Head” is her favorite track, so when they played it next she immediately recognized it and I think at that point she forgave me for the hearing she probably lost after I forced her to stand at the front with me.
After that came the other song from the 7 inch “Shook Our Bones” which is even better live than it is on vinyl. It’s the kind of song that is meant to be played in a venue like the Horseshoe, with everyone singing along, collectively remembering when youth shook our bones. That was easily the most communal song of the night, unless you count what they played next, which was a cover of the epic CCR tune “Fortunate Son.”
Singer Peter van Helvoort and guitarist Patrick Marchent had just saw John Fogerty live earlier that night so they switched up the plan to sing one of my favorite songs ever “Here Comes Your Man” by The Pixies for this CCR classic. Had they not told me this before the set I would have been all over the CCR (and I still was anyways), but all I could think was, PIXIES :/!!!! When they told the crowd this there were a lot of people shouting to play Pixies anyway, to my delight, but everyone got over it as soon as they realized they were gonna hear “Fortunate Son” instead. This was one that the entire audience knew, of course, so it made for an awesome singalong.
There was an awkward moment when one of the guys from another band playing that night – Modernboys Moderngirls – ran onstage to drunkenly sing along and the band looked at him totally confused, but apparently they had asked if they could beforehand but Kicks forgot. If a band doesn’t directly ask you to come up on stage, you really shouldn’t run up there on your own. It was uncomfortable to watch.
Then Peter asked if they could play another new one, a song that they had yet to debut anywhere live, so I was super excited to hear it. It’s called “Blacks and Blues” and I anticipate it being my next favorite Teenage Kicks track, from what I heard. It may have had my favorite vocals of all the songs played that night.
They ended the set with a really old track, so old it’s from Peter’s former band Ulysses and the Siren, called “Indian Summertime Blues”. All I could think as they played this was “why don’t I know this song?” Through the magic of Google I was able to find the Ulysses EP with this tune on it, and I can’t stop listening to it. I was somehow unaware how long Peter has been around, making amazing songs. What else have I missed out on??
If there was any disappointment that night, it was that they played a short set (only ten songs) and didn’t play the amazing secret song from Rational Anthems, “Keep On Keepin On”. I love that tune so much that I have often endured the three minutes of silence between it and “The River” on my Mp3 player that doesn’t allow me to fast forward, just so I can hear it.
But the real disappointment for me that night came after they played, when I stayed to watch Modernboys Moderngirls. Two thirds of the audience left after Teenage Kicks rocked the house, which had to suck for them considering it was their event, but that’s no excuse to get so shitfaced you act like an ass on stage and make lots of really terrible jokes. Herpes jokes? Really? It was a real let down considering their music is good and I was looking forward to seeing them, but they embodied the kind of drunken arrogance that only really lame guys in high school bands ever display. FYI boys, you are not Jim Morrison, and even Morrison couldn’t pull off the shit he was doing on stage, so grow up. I swear I was sitting next to the singers family, who looked incredibly embarrassed throughout the set. You couldn’t pay me to see them again live, but I will gladly listen to their recordings.
Anyhow, Teenage Kicks proved to be everything I had hoped they would be. Peter’s voice is even more raspy and gorgeous live, and the group dynamic they have on stage is strong yet sweet. Peter dedicated one song to his little brother, bassist of the group, Jeff van Helvoort as it was his birthday the day before. And he dedicated another track to drummer Cameron Brunt, who had some unfortunate news of a death in the family earlier in the day. That kind of earnestness is rare in rock, and it’s something I absolutely love to see (basically the exact opposite of the attitude MBMG displayed onstage). Good bands act like a family, and they definitely feel like a solid group that has what it takes to break through. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Peter is one of the most talented musicians in the city right now, and I can’t wait for the rest of the world to catch onto what he is doing with Teenage Kicks.
Also, they have the best tattoos of any band around, in case you were wondering.