HMV Empire Coventry, 29th November 2023
I’ve seen The K’s twice now. The first time was in the second room of Birmingham’s O2 Academy in March 2023. It was a small, sweaty room, and there was barely any space to breathe, but the show was loud, fun, noisy, and exciting. Even back then, The K’s showed immense potential. The second time was a few days ago, on the 29th of November, in Coventry’s much larger HMV Empire. Both times, they were phenomenal, but while the first show painted a portrait of four lads revelling in the sheer joy of creating music, in the second show, they brought an air of newfound professionalism with them. Gone was lead singer Jamie Boyle’s mooning. Instead, he managed to keep his trousers on for the entire show and even resisted cries of “Jamie, take your top off!” from the audience. And as if to further prove the fact they were now a well-established “proper” band, the beer bottle that had graced his hand was long gone, in its place a brown paper cup with steaming hot liquid inside. In just a few short months, the Merseyside boys had undergone an impressive transformation.
The racing opening riffs of ‘Picture’ tease the audience
As the audience floods in from the HMV Empire’s own bar-slash-waiting room, a colossal, unlit neon ‘K’s’ sign at the rear of the stage draws the eager concertgoers’ eyes. This striking visual, a departure from the bare canvas of their March performance, sets the tone for a show that exudes the sophistication of a seasoned band. In fact, it harks back to the staging of industry giants such as the newly-reunited Catfish and the Bottlemen, Jacob Collier, and, for a large part of their career, The 1975. The lights dim, and the ‘K’s’ sign comes to life, shining in brilliant magenta and emerald hues.
A booming chant of “Ooh, ey, up The K’s” fills the venue, and the band, grinning from ear to ear, take their places on stage. The racing opening riffs of ‘Picture’ tease the audience, and the electric energy of anticipation fills the venue, lighting up smiles as it makes its way through the crowd. As the band explodes into a raucous medley of guitars, drums, and bass, they set the tone for the evening. One thing is for certain: tonight is going to be a night of pure, rampant bliss. Wasting no time, they immediately start playing ‘Got a Feeling’. Boyle’s vocals are deep and soulful, Ryan Brelin’s guitar is searing, Jordan Holden’s drumming is impossibly fast, and Dexter Baker’s thumping bass makes the song a bursting package of rambunctious elation.
They work better together than ever before, and their performance is nothing short of captivating. As the set continues, the band’s energy increases, with Brelin and Baker marching the stage and Boyle singing directly into the crowd of adoring fans below. Not only are The K’s brimming with musical talent, but they also have a fanbase most veteran bands would be proud of. Without having even released their debut album, the band cannot be heard at times because of the overpowering cheers of joy emanating from the crowd. In the same vein, playing newly released singles can be a gamble for bands and they run the risk of falling flat. But when The K’s play ‘Heart On My Sleeve’, it’s as if the song has been out for years rather than just over a week.
The K’s are on an unswerving course toward indie stardom
The smooth and punchy ‘TV’ is equally well received, as is the infectious ‘Chancer’. A new addition to the setlist, ‘Landmines’ elicits a frenzy as the crowd bounces along in unison to its playful chorus. The three-song crescendo of ‘Glass Towns’, ‘Hoping Maybe’, and ‘Throw It All Away’ elevates the energy to new heights, concocting the perfect atmosphere for drinks to fly, people to jump and sway, and for the crowd to match the band’s unshakeable vigour.
In a masterful shift, the band slows the tempo, leaving only Boyle and Breslin (this time on keys) on stage. Bathing in a single, blinding spotlight, Boyle’s poignant rendition of ‘Valley One’ is a touching moment. But with the unruly bustle of the crowd and incessant talking, the song goes painfully unappreciated. But as someone who has spent a significant amount of time melancholically listening to ‘Valley One’ on the bus, the moment remains a personal highlight.
The final stretch of the performance is a triad composed of ‘Aurora’, ‘Hometown’, and the roaring ‘Sarajevo’, The K’s first single and the song that initially put them on the musical map. And then, before you know it, the show is over. Sure, it is a short set, with the band only playing twelve songs. But with The K’s only having released a handful of songs so far, what more could you ask for? As the band leaves the stage, the solitary, luminous ‘K’s’ sign illuminates the venue. Ears ringing, there is nothing to do but wonder: how can a band achieve so much without having even released their debut album? Because they’re The K’s, of course!
Seeing The K’s at this point in Coventry was like seeing a butterfly in the middle of its metamorphosis. The band is in the process of transforming from an exciting new underground indie band to a powerhouse of contemporary indie rock. In my previous review, I envisioned them headlining larger venues in two or three years. To my surprise, that trajectory is unfolding faster than anticipated. For, according to the band, they have almost sold out a headline show in Birmingham’s O2 Insitute, a 1500-capacity venue, in April. The K’s are on an unswerving course toward indie stardom, and their well-deserved mainstream success seems inevitable.