Friday, March 25, 2011

Cold War Kids Live: We're Dying for More Saint John

Some music junkies bitch about bands sounding the same way live as they do on their album. Some music junkies bitch about bands sounding completely differently than they do on their album. Me, I'm undecided.
I've been undecided since this past Tuesday, March 22, when I saw Cold War Kids at Boston's House of Blues. I wanted to come to a conclusion before posting but I just haven't. One thing I can say with swagger and veritas: Nathan Willet's voice is infallible and spine-tinglingly true to the sonorous timbre of his voice on CWK's albums. Is it a sad testimony to the state of today's music that we are SO overjoyed when we realize the same amazing voice we heard on the album can stand without the crutches and prosthetic limbs of studio "treatment", by itself, unaided on-stage? In any case it was a beautiful, auditory restoration of faith.
The band jumped onstage modestly and down to business after a quirky, engaging turntablist opener Baths (the latter who, despite having a deluge of a cold in his nostrils as evinced by his tissue usage, got the entire audience tapping their feet and jigging side to side with his energy, arm-flail dance, and sometimes aquatic, sometimes puerile, sometimes intergalactic mixing). CWK immediately drew the crowd in with their opener "Royal Blue," a dynamite stick of a song on the new album, Mine Is Yours, released in January 2011.
The quartet -- made up of Willet (lead vocals), Matt Maust (gangly bassist), Jonnie Russell (guitarist and vocals), and Matt Aveiro (drums) -- weaved their way without much ad-libbing through the next twenty or so songs on their set. Their set list drew mainly from Robbers and Cowards and their new album, while they shied away from many tracks off Loyalty to Loyalty.
The whole two hours passed by delightfully and far too fast. Aside from Maust's random and amusing karate-chop kicks to Willet's derriere along with his rhythmic wave-like dancing, the band stuck to the gig without drama, without much interaction with the crowd, and without much deviation to the way their tunes sound on their albums. But then. THEN came the encore. And it seemed like a back-stage mad scientist/shaman had given the band a musically virile potion to slurp down before coming back on stage.
They took a softer approach at first with Fashionable, then We Used to Vacation and, then, in the most artistic demonstration of Newton's Third Law of Motion I saw all night, they let loose with Saint John, a fantastic soul tune about poor "Old Saint John ... just waiting for a pardon" on death row. CWK got a little funky, a little edgy, and seemed to shake off a few extra layers they'd been wearing during the show. Infuse a little more of that funky, contents-of-Pandora-madness throughout the show and my ambivalence over the original quandary of this post melts away...

Baths. I didn't give Baths the proper credit above. The man was loveably gracious, and a true sound ringmaster to a high-flying range of beats and strands.
Animals -
Apologetic Shoulder Blades: (Trippy, fantastic, vocal kaleidoscope looping)

Cold War Kids Set List (Possibly Incomplete and Shuffled. My pen ran out halfway through.)
Royal Blue - (Live KCRW)
Finally Begin
Hang Me Up to Dry
Skip the Charades
Louder than Ever
Cold Toes on a Cold Floor
I've Seen Enough Video
Golden Gate Jumpers
Sensitive Kids
Audience - (Music Video)
Hospital Beds - (Live Reading 2007)
Flying Upside Down
We Used to Go on Vacation
Saint John - (Live: A Takeaway Show. Literally)