In Concert: Cold War Kids – Philadelphia, PA, 11/29/07

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I’ll admit up front that I’m not what you would call an überfan of Cold War Kids. I first heard their debut LP, Robbers & Cowards, about six months ago and have dug it ever since. I whiffed on a chance to see the band earlier this year, so I was definitely looking forward to last night’s concert at the venue now known as Fillmore at the TLA.

So we (me, Mrs. Suit, Jeff and Sara) loaded up the trusty Corolla and made it to the venue (after some trouble finding a parking garage and other navigational difficulties) in time to catch the last few songs of opening act We Barbarians. They seemed somewhat interesting I suppose, but we were busy scoping the place to get a Douchebag Hat count (don’t ask).

Up next was Derrick Brown, poet. I am certainly not educated enough in the world of poetry to offer an educated opinion on Derrick’s skill but throughout his performance I couldn’t get visions of Dane Cook out of my head. Not a good thing.

Cold War Kids took the stage after a brief delay, and played what I would estimate to be a 60 to 70-minute set. As expected, they hit most of Robbers & Cowards, with the early highlight being a rousing rendition of “Passing the Hat.” The coda on this song was easily the hardest the band rocked on the night, in what was otherwise a relatively low-key concert (but by no means boring).

Two new songs made their way into the set – “Look out Below” and another one whose name escapes me. They sounded quite good and I can only assume they will be on the group’s next album. Those two excepted, there were probably 4 or so songs I didn’t recognize, which are probably on one of the band’s many EPs. As I said, I’m not an überfan.

From the moment they took the stage the band was definitely “on” and had lots of energy. They seemed to connect well with the audience, although there were definitely more than a few annoying twerps who couldn’t stand in one place for more than 5 minutes. That’s the trade-off for an inexpensive general admission show I suppose.

One big plus was hearing the group’s vocals in concert, which I think worked better than on record. Lead singer/pianist/guitarist Nathan Willett has one of the most distinctive voices in rock today, and I for one really like it. I know he turns a lot of people off, but that’s to be expected. He was in fine form last night for sure, though. Guitarist Jonnie Russell handled the high harmony parts with aplomb.

Highlights of the set for me – the aforementioned ass-kicking rendition of “Passing the Hat,” “Robbers” (the house lights went off and the band used flashlights, a nice touch), “God, Make up Your Mind,” and of course standout songs “We Used to Vacation” and “Hang Me up to Dry.” A rousing version of “Saint John” ended the evening, and the band brought out a gaggle of people to help them with it.

All in all, Cold War Kids put on a very good show and whetted my appetite for another album with their new songs. Recommended.

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