January 19, 2005 - Seattle, WA – Neumos
by Ashley Graham
It is an all too common occurrence lately to attend concerts that look, feel and even sound the same. Originality often seems at a standstill, and even a band that you think may be above it all can take on the appearance of countless others. And upon first listening to New York’s French Kicks you may think they fit snugly into this category; there can be a perceived repetition in their sounds, a similar texture in their vocals and a common theme in their attire. But it would be a mistake to dismiss them solely on these grounds.
French Kicks are a band to be heard live. While their albums are strong in their own way, despite some similarities to the sounds of the time, the band really finds their way on the live stage. The music takes on a whole new life and the albums become more enjoyable after the live experience. They seem comfortable on stage but are alert and interested, none more clearly than lead singer Nick Stumpf.
Stumpf’s large frame saunters about the stage, twists the microphone this way and that, and towers over the audience demanding attention and awe. He mumbles in between songs and he gives his voice an energy that is sometimes missing on the band’s albums. He is such a captivating frontman that it is hard to imagine he was once stationed behind the drums. Now emerged in front of them his stage personality comes to life and gives the show an excitement it may have lacked before.
Though the rest of the band is a bit more somber on stage, there is a natural dynamic between them. When lead guitarist Josh Wise steps up to the microphone for a couple of songs and Stumpf retreats to behind the keyboard, the dynamic shifts and it is inevitably a bit less interesting, though the songs are still good. In their most natural line-up, Stumpf is clearly the one in the lead. When the drum pedal goes out part of the way through the band’s set, it distracts them only for a few moments before Stumpf steps up to the mic and starts clapping out the beat. The audience claps with him and the song, though a bit different, remains a success.
And so does the rest of the night. The energy is infectious and a large majority of the crowd is dancing right along to Stumpf’s vocals. They keep the banter in between songs brief and focus instead on delivering a set and show that is stunning, and they more than do that.
French Kicks’ tour continues through January down the west coast. More information on the band can be found at their website www.frenchkicks.com.