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A sort of homecoming was what it felt like for Kill Hannah to play at their hometown Chicago’s north side venue, The Vic, last week. They literally lived only a few blocks away not too long ago. Touring with She Wants Revenge, both bands had new material that they showcased to loyal fans. In some ways, I wish they hadn’t.
Kill Hannah has become a common household name for the local Chicago music scene since 2006 when “Kennedy” was played repeatedly on radio station Q101. I remember catching them at Lollapalooza 06’ when most of the band sported guyliner and black spiky emo hair covering their faces. Without knowing, many people mistook lead singer, Mat Devine, as a women with sultry vocals. They quickly became a group that was a part of the beginning of synth-alternative rock. Now a few years later, it seems like they are more comfortable with the direction they are going.
They came out on stage to perform “Kennedy” right of the bat. All three of their guitars had a glowing white light patch attached to the bottom of body of the guitar, along with green laser beams that shot out of the top stem of the guitar. Forgive me if I don’t know the technical parts to the guitar. I just knew it looked cool when they performed. Devine commented after the song, “This is home. Thank you. We are celebrating the fact that two days ago, we released our new album.”
KH performed many of their hits including “Nerve Gas,” “Black Poison Blood,” and “Crazy Angel.” They also tried out some of their new material off the album Wake Up The Sleepers. “New York City Speed” was a great new song that will probably end up the first single Devine mentioned to the crowd.
During the whole performance, Devine was very talkative in-between songs and told us that it wasn’t so easy as a local band to start up. “A lot of people told us that we were nuts in the beginning. I guess we were just too crazy,” Devine said. “We didn’t quit.” And then they performed “Radio” that will be a single in January 2010. The song had a great uplifting feel to it, without it being too commercial. The band all had their black skinny jeans and a military arm patch with their own symbol on it. It looks like a shooting target with a heart in the middle.
Another new song, “Strobe Lights” was dramatically done with real strobes that lite up the stage. How could you not have those during a song with that name? The song incased a mini guitar solo that morphed into a guitar shredding ending moment.
KH ended their set with favorite “Lips Like Morphine” and overall it was a really great performance. Their new songs are very promising while still sounding like themselves. I’m not sure how the rest of the world thinks of them, but I think Chicago fans will always end up coming back to their shows. We love our local boys.
After a short break and sound check by the band themselves, She Wants Revenge began their set. Lead singer, Justin Warfield, came out with his usual loose knitted hat and bandmate/bassist, “Adam 12” Bravin wore a black/red/white rimmed striped hat. For some reason, I think Bravin has a close resemblance to Tom Morello.
They started out things with old favorites “Sister,” “These Things” and “Broken Promises For Broken Hearts” with a great moody feel. Their 2005 self-titled album really was a favorite of mine as I listened to each song as if it was a well kept secret. Even their 2007 release of This Is Forever had the same sound that kept me in a trance. But after hearing a few of their new songs, I’m not sure if I want to listen anymore. It sounds a little brutal, but maybe I’m not into huge change.
Their new EP, Up And Down, was released a few weeks ago and sounds over produced and too poppy. One of the signature reasons why I think people liked SWR in the first place was Warfield’s deep baritone vocals and sexy murmuring. These new songs have Warfield singing in a much more upbeat and Top 40ish marketable way, not at all what we’ve heard in the last few albums.
Off the EP they performed “Your Love” which had a strong synth beat but horrible lyrics and I think Warfield even let out a Prince-like “ow” noise that was not expectant. Other unpleasing surprises were “Animal Attraction” and “All Wound Up.” These booty shaking-fast-tempo songs did not appease the crowd and simply did not fit in.
SWR made up for the new songs with old favorites like “What I Want” and “Red Flags Long Nights.” They even did a great cover of the 80’s band Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” in which KH’s Mat Devine came back on stage to sing the last few verses.
For their encore, they played “Out of Control” and of course, “Tear You Apart.” For a moment, I forgot about the new songs that were horrific and danced along with the crowd. The dance party was pretty out of control (pun intended) during “Tear You Apart” which ended with a harder guitar break.
SWR definitely took a 180 with this new EP and I’m wondering how everyone will feel about it. I usually am not this bitter and negative, but it’s a little saddening to see one of your favorite bands turn into another over-produced Chris Cornell sell-out. Let’s hope it’s just a phase.