If you think that a few hundred people singing cheerfully along to a song about funerals is a bit weird and morbid, you’ve clearly never been at a To Kill A King concert. It doesn’t have to be weird and morbid at all – on the contrary, it can be a whole lot of fun, as the London-based indie band proved at their excellent comeback show last Thursday.
The gig at The Borderline – an iconic Soho institution where acts like Muse, Blur and Mumford & Sons took their first steps towards superstardom – is the first in a series of shows at the band’s favourite London venues. It’s a small basement venue, with space for only 275 people, creating an intimacy you simply don’t get at a stadium or concert hall. There’s not even a barrier between stage and audience, allowing support act Josh Savage, a talented young singer/songwriter from Winchester, to jump down and play one of his songs right in the middle of the crowd.
To Kill A King enter the stage to euphoric cheers. “We haven’t done this in a while, and it feels great to be back,” lead-singer Ralph Pelleymounter confesses straight away, visibly moved by the warm welcome. They had taken a break from gigging to work on their third record, and now it’s finished they are ready to show the world what they’ve been up to in the last 18 months.
Always at least one eye on the darker, less pleasant parts of being human in their lyrics, To Kill A King often display a stubborn hopefulness and cheeky optimism in their songs, as if to say that nothing ever is as bleak as it seems – there’s hope as long as we dare to look for it. This mix of dark and light makes their music very modern, almost a perfect soundtrack for life in 2017, and the crowd eagerly embrace it: they dance, they cheer, they sing along. Guitar-driven indie-rock isn’t dead after all, it seems.
The set includes many old songs, creating almost tangible waves of joy in the audience whenever they recognise a favourite, like Choices from the 2013 debut Cannibals with Cutlery and Love Is Not Control from the self-titled follow-up. The new material – including the latest single The Good Old Days – triggers an equally euphoric response. “You are delightful!”, the band let them know, and they mean it.
“Delightful” actually sums the gig up very well. It’s a pleasure to watch this band, to hear and see their dedication, passion and sheer joy. They are up there because they love it, and what they do feels real and authentic – which is quite special in an age of manufactured acts and overly polished, calculated musical output. And then, of course, there’s the simple fact that To Kill A King are a very good live band. They know exactly what they are doing, mixing quieter folk-like tunes with heavier indie-rock carried by strumming guitars and wild drums, and both styles suit them well.
Just over an hour long, the gig is over far too soon, both for the audience and for the band. They play an encore and hang around at the merch stall afterwards to talk to everyone who wants to say hi – which is almost everyone. And that is definitely an indicator of a good night.