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In the midst of the longest spell of below freezing temperatures Boston has seen since 2005, the city got a much needed dose of upbeat indie rock from Ra Ra Riot last night. The New York City natives stopped by the Paradise Rock Club fresh off of the release of their new album Beta Love. Despite the frigid temperatures and gusty winds, a queue formed at the doors of the Paradise for the sold out show. Shivering fans nestled their way into the club filling the floor and balcony to capacity.
First on the bill for the night was Guards, whose lo-fi jams are ever reminiscent of CULTS. The similarities between the two acts can be easily explained by the fact that the band’s respective singers are siblings. Guards singer James Follin even features is little sister on his latest EP. Follin and is bandmates meshed seamlessly with the Boston audience with poppy melodies. Follin as a great stage presence and certainly gained some new fans last night.
After a brief intermission, the house lights dimmed and gave way to bright strobe-like structures that flanked the sides of the stage. Vocalist Wes Miles took the stage to a thundering house accompanied by bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci, violinist Rebecca Zeller, and drummer Kenny Bernard.
Ra Ra Riot is a band who truly loves their crafts and wears their hearts on their sleeves. Their excitement and pure joy for performing emanates from each smile and every stroke of an electric violin. It’s not often that you see a band stretch a set across their entire discography, especially when a new lp is hot off the press. Yet Ra Ra Riot knew that despite wanting the push the new release, revisited older classics that the crowd was ever grateful for.
While Beta Love is the first album from Ra Ra Riot since the departure of original cellist Alexandra Lawn, the band’s new sound relates to the older hits well. The first half of the set included older tracks off of 2007’s The Rhumb Line like “Run My Mouth” and “Oh, La.” Shortly came the title track of this year’s Beta Love that got the entirety of the floor bouncing on their feet. Featuring more electronic and synth-like sounds, Beta Love is taking Ra Ra Riot into a new scene.
The band’s sophomore release The Orchard was not left out, halfway into the set a smash performance of “Too Dramatic” showed off Miles’ beautiful vocals. During this track I watched the infectious beat permeate the room, everyone around me was instantly bopping their head from side to side with a childlike grin.
The band’s near 90 minute set swept by in a flash and finished off strong. A personal favorite came in the second half with “Can You Tell” off of The Rhumb Line, the romantic melody swept across the crowd and gave everyone a minute to fall in love. With tracks like “Boy” off of The Orchard and “For Once” off of Beta Love saved for the end, the crowed roared at the beginning of each couple of chords with instant recognition. Front man Miles danced and sweat it out alongside the audience on these last tracks before jumping off of Bernard’s kick drum to end the last bits of energy he had.
With palpable energy and excitement the crowd sauntered towards the exits and to linger in the enchantment that Ra Ra Riot left them in. While losing a band member can be daunting, Ra Ra Riot seems to be adapting and growing exceptionally. If last night’s sold out crowd was any indication, neither Beta Love nor the band have anything to fear.