Review: The Kooks bring Britpop to The Riv

I remember listening to The Kooks in high school. I was going through a big Brit indie rock phase, and I discovered their music on a free CD that came with the latest issue of Q. “She Moves in Her Own Way” was a jam then, and it’s a jam now. Seeing them play that song live 10 years after I first heard it was just one of the highlights of their show.

English turned American rocker Barns Courtney opened for The Kooks, and his energy was literally flying off the stage. The British artist was born in England but moved to Seattle when with his family when he was 4. Despite moving back to the UK when he was 15, his accent is distinctly American. Nevertheless, his attitude, musical style, and way of singing are definitely British. He came onstage in a fringe jacket and a leopard print shirt and immediately started jumping and dancing. After his first three songs (when photographers have to leave the pit), some of us went up to the balcony to watch the rest of his set. During his song, “Fire“, which is arguably his biggest hit, Courtney told everyone to kneel down as low as possible, and he jumped offstage into the crowd and had everyone jump up during the chorus. It was such an amazing moment with his fans, I was jumping right alongside them.

The Kooks’ live show is a rarity. Unlike many rock and pop stars, they didn’t rely on fancy set pieces, crazy lights, or insane outfits. They let the music speak for itself, with the help of some blue hues and a bit of fog. Their newest album, Let’s Go Sunshine, received positive acclaim from critics and fans alike and praised them for playing with some new sounds. Their bubblegum, happy-go-lucky vibe is still present, but there’s a bit of stadium rock thrown in as well. Playing a wide array of songs from their nearly 15-year discography, The Kooks’ Chicago set was cheerful and exciting. Lead singer and guitarist Luke Pritchard spent a lot of their set reaching out to fans in the front row and making sure everyone felt like they were part of the show. One of the highlights of their set came during the encore, when they played their biggest and most Kooks-esque song, “Naive“. The Riv erupted in cheers, and everyone sang along at the top of their lungs. It was incredibly refreshing to see a band that don’t take themselves too seriously and know how to make their fans really happy.

The Kooks are currently on tour with supporting act Barns Courtney and are headed to Europe after shows in New York and Baltimore. Tickets and tour info HERE.

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Kate Scott

Kate Scott Daly specializes in music journalism. Her body of work includes live documenting over 200 bands, reviewing several albums and concerts, and multiple artist interviews. Kate continues to brave the photo pits of major music venues and outdoor festivals throughout the Chicagoland scene.