Kindness: Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 22/03/2012

Kindness first emerged in 2009 with the tracks ‘Gee up’ and a cover of The Replacements’ ‘Swingin’ Party’ and not much else, taking, as far as I am concerned, a hiatus from existence until earlier this year. Only two UK tour dates followed the album release, and there’s an unavoidable sense of calculated mystery in this. If not loveable, they were certainly intriguing. Thus Thursday’s appearance at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen was much anticipated and the venue provided a suitably enigmatic setting: tiny and cutely seedy, and completely packed.

Visually, Kindness hold a very commanding presence, even on tonight’s compact stage. As a band they are utterly immersed in playing, with synchronised backing singers, satisfyingly energetic slap bass stances and Bainbridge’s lanky figure meandering around the crowd. Opening with the 70’s disco semiotics of ‘Cyan’ they manage to be mesmerizingly nostalgic without seeming deliberately or predictably ‘retro’ or sleepy. ‘Doigsong’ followed, pairing slick, bass rhythms with refreshingly and disarmingly quotidian lyrics. Hollywood-era lounge music came with the percussive tempo of  ‘Bombastic’, and ‘Gee Up’ brought palpably squelchy Orange Juice influences in an unashamedly feelgood, upbeat chant that even the most stoic of crowds would enjoy. Synth-heavy Italo-esque 80’s pop in a rendition of ‘That’s Alright’ was hyperactive, giving full rein to the female singers. It remained slick, but as with the album there was a sense of comic self-awareness that prevents it becoming as overly serious as some of the album reviews have suggested. ‘House’ (play) presented a change towards sincerity; calm, glossy chillwave sensibilities dominate in this romantic bedroom singalong. Though not clever, it is completely charming. On the whole there’s an impression that the band’s number one priority is having hella fun, which is captivating no matter what they play.

Their set maintained nightclub rhythms throughout, with Adam Bainbridge’s dream-pop melodies and Womack & Womack improvisations providing constant and enthralling variation. Overall some more comedy highkicks might have been nice, but Kindness’s one weak point tonight was that, with a set well under one hour long, it was simply too short for my liking. Despite this I left with the impression that a bad mood at a Kindness set would be a very rare thing.

Lucy Watson