Cold War Kids @ The Wilbur Theatre
By: Kristin Jenko
Posted: Apr. 8, 2009 – Boston, United States
If anticipation is the key to success, Cold War Kids have found their sub-niche in a loyal, if not growing, fan base. And devotion, evidenced by the reiterative title of their latest album, Loyalty To Loyalty, lends crucial roots to the moody, anachronistic evening.
The Wilbur Theatre might be a straightedge wet dream, but Boston is a picky audience, and downright nasty when denied its booze. The venue hosts a mash-up of concerts, musicals, and comedy shows, making it fit for anything but perfect for nothing, not to mention dry – bone dry. Couple that with a city-wide itching for spring, and you have a caustic scene in the making.
Brooklyn-based opener, Amazing Baby, leaves the crowd tepid, employing visual tricks fit for a talent show. Had lead singer Will Roan spit his beer over the audience instead of the drummer, the smell on their clothes might have suspended disbelief at the crowd's collective sobriety.
Between sets, 18 20-somethings on the balcony try to ignite a clapping contagion, chanting "Let's Go Cold War." Three rows over, a guy pops open a box of Jujubes from concessions, making it feel more like a 3D cineplex than a rock show waiting to happen.
When Cold War Kids finally hit the stage some 40 interminably dry minutes later, the crowd gets what it came for – almost. The mood is somewhere between jazz club and early Radiohead, only in the dark. The first four or five songs are illuminated only by the red focal lights and flashes of cameras.
But, as Loyalty To Loyalty suggests, the band does not disappoint. Lead singer Nathan Willet administers his trademark vocals to a crowd of eager onlookers, even if they can't see his face. Jonnie Russell offers a silhouette worth watching in moody, muddy lighting, bouncing from one instrument to the next with charismatic energy.
When light finally descends on the band, it's over drummer Matt Aveiro, who's bathed in a halo for favorite, "Something Is Not Right with Me", giving Willet's vocals and gesticulations a preacher-like vibe, with Aveiro on the altar. "Relief" delivers on its title with a white backlight behind the entire band, the first time we see each member clearly.
By now the crowd is bopping, hungry for its favorites, which the band builds upon to a seamless crescendo. "Hang Me Out to Dry" starts a sing-a-long, while Willet bangs with abandon on the piano. Before the night ends, he announces his gratitude that two people, caught in a spray of vomit on the balcony, stayed for the show. [Reminder to self: drink before shows at the Wilbur.]
The band wraps it up with the ecclesiastic "Lord Have Mercy on Me" and "St. John", by far their most powerful efforts of the night. Aveiro bangs with bells on belts and Russell's at the piano drumming on his own beer bottle and loose cymbal. As the night destructs with bells and cymbals crashing and the crowd clambering for more, it's clear these Kids know how to honor their loyalties and keep their converts in constant . . . anticipation.
Video: "Something Is Not Right With Me" by Cold War Kids