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Spring has sprung in Boston and Cold War Kids have coincidentally turned a new leaf with the release of their latest album Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. Having been sold out for weeks, last night the Paradise Rock Club welcomed Nate Willett and his band with open arms.
When I told friends that this was my fifth time seeing Cold War Kids since 2010, I was met with confused looks and questions, “Why?” The answer to that is quite simple. Give Willett five minutes on the stage with a microphone in hand and you too, will understand. Having missed Cold War Kids in their humble beginnings; I have been fortunate enough to see the transition from the more rugged past touring for Loyalty to Loyalty to the more polished sounds of Mine Is Yours and now – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. While their sound and direction is changing and evolving, their live show is just as raw and magnetic as it ever was.
Opening last night was Los Angeles dream pop act Houses. Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messeina began making music together while living remotely in Hawaii for three months. Their abstract vocals permeated the house as patrons filtered in from the hazy spring evening. As a mildly risky opening as the band is arguable slower paced than the high-energy headliner…Houses held their own, giving the audience a beautiful dreamscape; a calm before the storm.
After a brief intermission, Willett stormed the stage alongside Dann Gallucci, Matt Maust, and Matt Aveiro. While Willett as the frontman has a very distinct style of manic dancing and bobbing – last night my eyes were glued to bassist Matt Maust. While it’s not unusual to see playfulness and comradery between bandmates, Maust takes it to a new level. During the entire 17 song set, Maust maintained physical contact with Willett every 45 seconds (if not more often) by tapping on Willett’s shoulder in sync with the drumbeat or nuzzling his head onto that same shoulder. While this must be strange to picture, it was even more peculiar to see Maust extend the same head nuzzling gesture to the fan standing right next to me towards the end of the night during the hit “Hospital Beds.”
The night was very fast paced as Willett opted for very little small talk and banter with the audience between tracks. Having seen the band on bigger stages like Boston’s House of Blues as well as a Lollaplaooza side stage, it was a privilege to see the band so intimately. Willett sings with a personal conviction that allows you to see the energy surging through his every limb even when sitting at a piano.
Last night’s set list was tailored to satisfy Cold War Kids fans both new and old as it was an even blend of the band’s entire discography. Many bands tend to disappoint “old school fans” by focusing too heavily on a new release, yet Cold War Kids have perfected the art. Featured was every Cold War classic like 2006’s “Rubidoux” and “Hang Me Up To Dry.” Loyalty to Loyalty made an appearance with “Relief” and “Every Man I Fall For,” quickly followed by “Royal Blue” and “Louder Than Ever” off of Mine Is Yours.
Willett also tested the waters with soon-to-be hits off of the freshly released Dear Miss Lonelyhearts including “Miracle Mile,” “Loner Phase,” and “Jailbirds.” To my surprise, the title track off of the new LP was missing from the set. I found the news songs seamlessly fit into the collection and eagerly await the next tour so that those tracks can have the audience sing-a-long they deserve.
After a rowdy encore of personal favorites, “We Used To Vacation” and “Something’s Not Right With Me,” I managed to snag one of the setlists. My eyes immediately fixated on the title “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” that sat prominently in the opening track slot. Tonight the band skipped over it and kicked the night off with number two, “Mexican Dogs” instead. Perhaps Willett isn’t quite ready to let “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” out of the bag and is testing the waters more cautiously that anticipated.