The first time I ever heard Cold War Kids, they weren’t even playing one of their own songs. Stereogum had strapped together a bunch of covers to create a tribute to Radiohead’s OK Computer and Cold War Kids got to play with ‘Electioneering’. The song is very minimalist; there’s really anything to it other than quiet piano, crashing percussion, and the distorted voice of Nathan Willett, which is what caught my attention. So as they started to pierce the love of music within my skull, I also came across a yearly mash-up compilation that included ‘We Used To Vacation’ with ‘Kick, Push’ by Lupe Fiasco. Everything about the mash-up worked for me and while I wasn’t cracking open Fiasco’s discography, I had plenty to catch up on with Cold War Kids.
I had seen the band play at Sasquatch this past year, and while the Commodore isn’t exactly the Gorge, I was looking forward to it all the same, as the Commodore was a good venue for this kind of performance. The show was sold out and by the time I got there, there was a line of people outside waiting for the chance to grab a ticket and see what was bound to be a great set.
The stage went dark and the keyboard kicked in as they started up with ‘All This Could Be Yours’ from the newest album Hold My Home. The skeleton that graced the cover of Loyalty To Loyalty seems to have remained their figurehead, as it supplied a recognizable backdrop for the band to play against. After the good warm-up song, ‘Miracle Mile’ (my favourite song from Dear Miss Lonelyhearts) got my blood pumping, though at a slower pacing than I would have liked. This was followed up with ‘Loner Phase’ from the same album, with its futuristic synth sound on top of a heavy bass-line.
The cheering really started when Willett took to the keyboard to play ‘We Used To Vacation’ (Robbers & Cowards), which is one-half of the wonderful mash-up I mentioned above. Although I love the slowing down for the internal monologue of the promise not to imbibe and Willett’s voice, it’s the maracas shaking away like a rattlesnake that makes me love the song as much as I do. That noise sustaining each verse is life the lifeblood of the song; bringing me back and making me want more as each verse passes. I like this song too much but judging from the cheers of the crowd, I think I’m supported in my decision.
‘Santa Ana Winds’ is a song I’ve never actually heard, as I’d never gotten the chance to listen through the Behave Yourself EP. From what I’ve read, the EP got some good reviews and would show up again that night. Before that, though, Willett let us know it was time to get to the new material (Hold My Home) with the appropriately named ‘First’. It was also a bit of a first for me as I’d finally gotten a chance to listen to a bands’ new album before they were touring on it and although it wasn’t my favourite, ‘First’ definitely stood out on an album that I wouldn’t call my favourite. To keep things fresh, they threw in a track from Mine Is Yours, ‘Louder Than Ever’, before going back to the new album with another not-really-favourite, ‘Hot Coals’.
The band kept the hits coming though, getting the amazing ‘Hang Me Up To Dry’ (Robbers & Cowards) out to a cheering crowd that was more than happy to sing along with the whole song. Willett then took the keyboard for a solo (though partially accompanied through harmonies by Matthew Schwartz) and got the audience to sing along with the chorus of ‘Bottled Affection’ (Dear Miss Lonelyhearts). This was followed up by what also would’ve been a good choice for a solo song on keyboard, with a song that I really do quite like from the new album, ‘Harold Bloom’. There’s just something about that chorus that gets me.
‘Tuxedos’ was another Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and ‘Drive Desperate’ was another Hold My Home, except I’d like to note that “Drive” is my favourite song off of the new album. Love the keyboard line, love the pounding of the drums that build up the song, and then that guitar riff that kicks in with that distortion is everything I could’ve asked for. I’m really glad they played it, although they didn’t really have a choice (in my opinion), what with it being the best song off the album. We then got our first Loyalty To Loyalty song with ‘Every Man I Fall For’, which was followed up by another song I hadn’t heard, as ‘Minimum Day’ is a single without a home on an EP or LP. The orphan song is real good and I’d definitely recommend checking it out; it’s not my favourite song ever but I feel like it’s one of those songs that could potentially convert the masses into believers of the band. The set finished off with another older song, ‘Hospital Beds’ (Robbers & Cowards) and the crowd was hungry for an encore, even though some people left for whatever crazy reason.
The encore (like their set apparently) was pretty set for their tour for this album, and it all started with ‘Well Well Well’, a John Lennon cover. We then got the second song to be played from the Behave Yourself EP, and that was the more soulful sounding ‘Audience’. Things couldn’t end there though because there was still a single that needed to be represented: ‘Something Is Not Right With Me’ (Loyalty To Loyalty). Once again, an older song was greet with cheering and people screaming the lyrics, showing how proud the fans of this band were to be seeing them play all these songs live. It was a perfect ending to an awesome set.
In my opinion, the set had an incredibly strong beginning, somewhat of an up and down middle-end, and a great sign-off song. Cold War Kids were great the last time I saw them and with their dedication to ensure that they play a lot of the older (and in some cases, better) material, you really can’t go wrong with their live act. I really love this band live and would definitely suggest going just a bit out of your way to see them.