The Cold War Kids Dazzle Sold-Out Crowd


Feb 2 2010, 0:23

Sat 23 Jan – Cold War Kids

(This is a piece I wrote for my high school newspaper/weblog, the James Logan Courier. See for more.)

On the night of Saturday January 23rd the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco was alive with tension and anticipation. Tickets to the sold-out Cold War Kids show were being scalped for amounts far exceeding face value and fans were expecting a passionate and intimate show at the superb venue.

As the lights went down for opener Alec Ounsworth the crowd had a positive energy that is rarely seen in response to opening bands. I was unfamiliar with Alec Ounsworth, but the lead singer of the ensemble eventually introduced himself as Alec and noted that he and his companions were playing material from his solo project, and two other projects, Flashy Python and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Once fans heard that this eccentric singer was also the lead singer of the moderately popular Clap Your Hands Say Yeah the generally good attitude only improved. The band played through a variety of diverse songs, ranging from fast paced proto-punk to eclectically arranged indie-world grooves, to my favorite song, a slow bluesy number with shimmering moments of guitar heavy bliss. Although Ounsworth’s sound was distinctive, it also went exceptionally well with the Cold War Kids’ sound.

No matter the caliber of the opening band, fans were at the Fillmore Saturday to see the Cold War Kids, fresh off the release of a new EP, Behave Yourself. As lead singer Nathan Willet led the young indie band and burst into the chords of the brooding “I’ve Seen Enough” the Cold War Kids’ live prowess was immediately clear. I had seen the band once before, in an excellent set at the Outside Lands Music Festival in 2008, but their stage energy was on a completely new level at the Fillmore. While bands typically take some amount of time to warm up to a crowd, the Cold War Kids immediately were energetic from the start, bouncing across the stage like balls in a human pinball machine.

Of course, the audience probably played into this energy. The Cold War Kids are at the prime level of fame, where they draw large crowds, but these crowds are comprised almost exclusive of legitimate and serious fans. The band’s second song of the night was “Hair Down”, an average track off 2006’s Robbers & Cowards that gained new life at the Fillmore on Saturday night. Willet’s effortless vocal range clarified and so did the band’s musical precision. An immaculately mastered soundboard created an amazing live sound, which became clear as the band proceeded to their most recent single “Audience”.

The rest of the show was similar to the opening, but in the best possible way. Although the Cold War Kids came off a bit heavy in “Red Wine, Success!” this was due more to the unusually calm crowd (the smell of marijuana was prevalent, and most audience members were more focused on swaying and singing along than on dancing or moshing). Willet’s voice was spot on all night, especially on the band’s breakthrough single “Hang Me Up to Dry” and “Hospital Beds”, both off Robbers & Cowards. The most exceptional songs from a musical standpoint, “Relief” and “Welcome to the Occupation”, were taken from 2008’s Loyalty to Loyalty. Guitarist and piano player Jonnie Russell and bassist Matt Maust had great chemistry on stage, both musically and emotionally, and drummer Matt Aveiro fit well into their rhythmic grooves. The Cold War Kids’ sound is largely based on exact and strange musical flourishes, which the band executed well on Saturday night.

There were a few notable moments during the show. A few songs in Willet announced that the innocuous index card fans had received upon entering the Fillmore was actually a key to a free bootleg download of the concert, “a new thing with no strings attached”. After this Willet sat down at the piano for a trio of beautiful slow songs, starting with an ode to his home town (“Santa Ana Winds”), continuing with a bleak tribute to the venue (“Golden Gate Jumpers”), and ending with the aforementioned “Hospital Beds”. After “Hospital Beds” Willet moved into the only cover of the night, an incredible rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Long As I Can See the Light”. Few vocalists could do CCR justice, but Willet succeeded in doing just that, leading the audience (many of whom weren’t even conceived at the time of Creedence Clearwater Revival) in a passionate sing-a-long.

Despite a brief technical difficulty at the beginning of the set closing “Something Is Not Right With Me”, the band persevered and left the stage amidst much applause. After a brief break, the Cold War Kids reemerged and played a three-song encore featuring “Tell Me in the Morning”, “Sermons”, and “We Used to Vacation”. “Sermons” was a reflective and masterful performance that left the crowd hanging in every one of its many expansive pauses. The show could have ended after such a dramatic and moving song, but the band closed things out with a frenetic and powerful rendition of “We Used To Vacation”, leaving everyone in the Fillmore amazed with the musical spectacle they had just witnessed.


  • omgitsbeeaaa


    Feb 3 2010, 0:44
  • lattiboy

    I saw these guys at the Showbox in Seattle about 6-8 months ago. It was the single best concert I've seen since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Coachella 5 or 6 years ago. The energy and connection with the crowd was just amazing. Great writeup!

    Feb 8 2010, 19:33
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