Cold War Kids @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

17Oct08

Cold War Kids is a band in motion. This was evident last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg as the bassist, Matt Maust, and guitarist, Jonnie Russell, constantly traversed the stage. It was quite different to see the band members cover so much ground during the show. And it wasn’t just during a few songs, it happened throughout the entire show. Usually that kind of mobility is reserved for the lead singer, who in this case is Nathan Willett, but he mainly changed stage position for each song. He moved from the keyboard on one side of the stage, to the piano on the other, and then to the microphone in the center.

They way the band members interacted is worth noting as well. During this show I felt like the musicians really played with each other. Yes, they were playing for an audience, but they were interacting with each other throughout the entire performance. And I don’t mean occasional eye contact. Maust and Russell faced off throughout the show, getting up close to each other, looking like they were going to have a guitar battle. Because the actual musical battle never happened, they seemed more like wrestlers gearing up for a match. They circled each other, and even bumped shoulders at one point. They each had no problem moving around the stage, even getting up close to Willett, both when he stood at the microphone and when he was at the keyboard. At some points I thought that if I didn’t know better I’d guess they were on roller skates. The constant interaction was so different than other shows where it appears that each member is in their zone, seemingly unaware of the crowd, and certainly not physically interacting with the other band members.

The songs were great live. They sounded very much like the recorded versions, but with a little more life infused into them. The vocals were clear, perhaps even too clear as the crowd sang-along to the lyrics of popular songs like “Hang Me Up To Dry,” “We Used to Vacation,” and “Hospital Beds.” Thankfully, Willett did not offer the microphone up to the crowd (a point when concerts take a turn for the worse). His voice was so good I didn’t want to hear the rest of the crowd chime in. The band played a bunch of new songs like “Something is Not Right With Me,” “Relief,” “Dreams Old Men Dream,” “Every Man I Fall For,” and “Against Privacy.” They introduced a new song called “Coffee Spoon.”

The show was going very well, which seemed to please Willett, as it was first time they played the Music Hall of Williamsburg. And then they brought out the very instrument that makes any show instantly better: the bongo drum. It was just for one song, “Welcome to the Occupation”, but it was a fun addition. As the band performed “Robbers” they turned the tables on the audience. Well, actually they turned the lights on the audience. As the stage went black, Willett and Russell scanned the crowd using two small flashlights. Willett explained that this was the part of the show where they get to see who they were playing for, instead of just a mass of dark bodies. They sang the whole song in near darkness while they checked out their audience, illuminating them one by one.

Basically, Cold War Kids is a fun band to see live. The crowd was definitely into it. The most telling moment came at the end of the night when the band left the stage and the crowd, eagerly awaiting an encore, started chanting “Ole, ole, ole, ole.” I don’t know what inspired this, as there was neither a soccer ball nor goal post in sight, but when Willet reappeared on stage he wanted to know who started it. He described hearing the chant offstage as “irresistible.” The band went on to play the encore and finished up the show with a rousing “Saint John.”

Opening band, AA Bondy, was one of the best opening bands I’ve seen a while. The lead singer’s dry sense of humor added to the performance. It was definitely worth showing up early to catch them, and I’ll be checking out their music.

Here are some pictures from the show. The band was a little hard to catch since they were in constant motion. Note the spooky skeleton backdrop, straight from their new album cover.

Cold War Kids at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Nathan Willett and Matt Maust of Cold War Kids

And here is a picture of the flashlight portion of the show. Basically it looked like two oncoming trains were playing for a bunch of deer in the headlights.

switcheroo

switcheroo

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