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Cold War Kids – 15 October 2008: New York, Webster Hall

Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

The occasion was Cold War Kids’ sophomore album Loyalty to Loyalty tour, but the atmosphere was more akin to recently parted college pals boozing it up like they’d never split up. Their hour and a half long set sampled both old and new repertoire, though you wouldn’t know it by the crowd’s thrilled responses.

Opening with “Every Valley is Not a Lake” off of Loyalty, their sound was epic but unrefined enough to lend itself to the inebriated blues-y timbre that inhabits lead singer Nathan Willett’s vocals. Pounding on the keyboard, Willett matched drummer Matt Aveiro’s throbbing beats, which along with Matt Maust’s pointillistic and driving bass playing made up the majority of the group’s heavy minimalist sound.

They romped through fan favorites like “We Used to Vacation”, “Hospital Beds”, and “Hang Me Up to Dry”. During “Robbers” they took a particularly humbling DIY approach to the lighting, presenting two flashlights (and not even Maglites) to serve as isolated beams randomly moving about while playing in their wandering silhouettes one-handed. Together it emphasized the song’s underlying sense of loneliness and aimlessness.

Other songs also evoked the group’s isolated timbres. “Every Man I Fall For” suggested the warm yet minor sounds of the Stones’ stumbling intro to “Under My Thumb” before ripping into more reverb heavy strums.

The Kids keenly made sure to set Willett’s respective keyboard and piano at opposite and extreme ends of the stage, allowing Maust and guitarist Jonnie Russell the maximum space to thrash and jump unpredictably. The two were also partial to smacking multiple maracas against several cymbals available at the front of the stage.

The audience matched the group’s youthful exuberance (propelled by a Goonies-like pirate backdrop no doubt) with timely handclaps on “Hospital Beds”. But the real pageantry occurred during the encore when a trombone and clarinet player paraded onto the stage to blast some indecipherable notes on finale “Saint John.” Their panache and movements seemed to do enough to add flavor to the already well-loved tune.

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