Cold War Kids at First Avenue, 3/10/2011

Categories: Last Night

Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Cold War Kids
March 10, 2011
First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis

Cold War Kids have received some lukewarm press and icy criticism following their January-released third album Mine is Yours, which was all zipped up by Kings of Leon producer Jacquire King. Based on their performance last night at First Avenue, Cold War Kids probably aren't taking negative reviews to heart.

The band started the night out with "Royal Blue" from their new album, an anthemic blues-hero kind of song that suits frontman Nathan Willet's fierce tenor splendidly. Indeed, the band's entire set seemed to be anthem after anthem, as they played through a slew of new songs, including "Louder Than Ever," which, of course, had the entire audience screaming back the lyrics.

The crowd inside the club was packed thick with young fans and suburbanites who probably have the new album on shuffle along with the likes of other high-profile alt-rock soul-infused stars (a la Kings of Leon or the Black Keys), who didn't seem to mind that, though all the songs sounded good, they all sounded relatively alike. It's a mainstream variety of indie-rock that does the job, sure enough, and may be an unfair criticism (it is oh-so-easy to snobbishly accuse a band of becoming "too mainstream" once they have finally built a name for themselves). Nonetheless, the new songs are a marked departure from the erratic, frenzied breakthrough playing that can be found on old gems like "Hang Me Out To Dry" from the band's debut album Robbers and Cowards.


Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Cold War Kids seem to be setting themselves up for the kind of arena-style success that their heavy piano and eclectic instrument variety--Willett and guitarist Jonnie Russell switched between piano, maracas, tambourine and bottles--would be lost on. Could they play arenas? Maybe, sure. They certainly seem to want to, in any case, even if this isn't the tour that sees them. But Cold War Kids are not a pop band, no matter how they dress up their new record; live on stage, they are grungy, unruly rockers who shine best when they are on the edge. There can be no denying Willet's skill as he banged out the infectious, crowd-pleasing "We Used To Vacation" during the encore, and it seemed to be the song everyone had been waiting for.

The band closed out the evening with "St. John," a dark, dramatic tune that sounded a lot like a church hymn gone horribly awry--especially when Russell added the electric organ--and was probably one of the strongest songs of the evening.


Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Critic's bias: I liked Mine is Yours well enough; it's a catchy, sing-along sort of album, but it's one that given any more airtime I would get sick of. Still, enjoyable, radio-worthy--what it was meant to be, I suppose.
The Crowd: Tight, sweaty, and smelly.
Overheard in the Crowd: "It's so hot!" was probably the second-most repeated thing (after "Fuck yeah! These guys are AWESOME!") .
Random Notebook Dump: My sinuses are still not clear, so I can't be sure which I smelled more heavily, body odor or marijuana. Either way, First Avenue might as well have been a sauna.
Setlist: Okay, listen, it was damn near impossible to get a full set list. Conrad was not going to hand it to me. I have compiled, based on scratchy notes, a setlist to the best of my knowledge below.

Royal Blue
Welcome to the Occupation
Mexican Dogs
Skip the Charades
Hang Me Out To Dry
Every Man I Fall For
Louder Than Ever
Cold Toes on the Cold Floor
Santa Ana Winds
Flying Upside Down
I've Seen Enough
We Used to Vacation
St. John

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