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Friday night at the House of Blues, Cold War Kids, supported by PAPA, shook the floor with their music, all under the gaze of a reclining skeleton that graced the cover of their Loyalty to Loyalty. They couldn’t have asked for a more excited crowd; they interacted with the band, danced with reckless abandon, called out song names that they wanted played.
Cold War Kids Boston appearance was on the last leg of their tour to promote their most recent LP, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, released this past April, and their recent EP, Tuxedos, which was released on September 17. Their fourth studio release, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, spelled some changes for the band. Guitarist Jonnie Russell was replaced by former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci, who also served as producer on the album. In an interview with the Huffington Post, lead singer Nathan Willet stated much of the album took its inspiration from the introspection of the name character in “Miss Lonelyhearts” by Nathanael West, which the album is also named for. But make no mistake, there was nothing introspective when the band took the stage – they were a powerhouse of energy from beginning to end.
But before Cold War Kids saw the stage lights LA-based duo PAPA, who released their first full length album last week, played a forty-five minute set. Barefoot singer-drummer Darren Weiss started the show by dancing around with sleigh bells before sitting down at the kit and getting down to business. Their soulful jams were reminiscent of the just past summer and you couldn’t help but move – especially when watching bassist Danny Presant wriggle around with his instrument.
At nine o’clock, the Cold War Kids came out. The Cold War Kids poured out their music in an endless torrent of energy. Each member of the band writhed and danced as they pounded away passionately at their instruments. But to truly describe the band’s performance you have to take them as a unit. Nathan Willet sang with great intensity, spreading his arms wide as he gesticulated at the audience . Dann Gallucci was simply fascinating to watch; he prowled the stage, one minute with the audience, one minute with the drummer, all the while sawing away at his guitar in an open mouth trance. Bassist Matt Maust wandered and played at Gallucci with an almost comic ambivalence, at one point taking his beer to the front of the stage and watching the crowd as he sipped and the band finished a song. The band as a unit wove in and around one another as they moved but also as they traded instruments in a loosely choreographed figure eight. Willet changed switched effortlessly from piano to guitar to maraca as they blended one song into another like a DJ playlist.
They opened the show with “Loner Phase” the third track off of the new album. Throughout the night, they picked songs both from their new releases and from their back list. They rocked their newest single and WERS favorite, “Miracle Mile,” pulled out the song that made them famous “Hang Me Out to Dry,” and Willet showed off a wispy falsetto on “Relief” from Loyalty to Loyalty. They played raucous jam after upbeat tune, relying on a store of ceaseless energy. Only to play “Tuxedo,” a rock ballad in waltz time, did they slow down at all. They picked the tempo right back up with “Something is Not Right With Me.”
After an hour, Cold War Kids stopped. Maust put on a pair of black frame specs, put his thumb to his nose and wiggled his fingers as he and the rest of the band vacated the stage. The house left the lights blue, reflecting the general mood now that the Kids were in hiding. Tension built amid screams for an encore and, more specifically, for the band to play “Saint John.” Willet returned alone to play “Bottled Affection” on piano, teaching the audience the lyrics to the chorus to sing along. The rest of the band returned to play their cover of The Band’s “You Don’t Come Through.” Willet sheepishly warned that it was the first time they were performing the song and asked for the audience’s kindness. He didn’t need to; they killed it. They ended the show with “Saint John,” which made the several people who had been yelling for it the whole show very happy.