Since the release of Beta Love last month, Syracuse natives Ra Ra Riot have been doing what every one of their supporters has been waiting for for the past year: touring. The new album is a considerable departure from the band’s debut, The Rhumb Line, transitioning from somber strings and nostalgic harmony to a synth-pop dance party, proving that Wes Miles can make even the saddest words seem sanguine. This past week, they took the stage at a sold-out El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles to play music both new and old for a crowd of loyal fans.
The ensemble brought it, with bright vocals contrasting brooding bass, synchronized percussion, and the pulsating strings that drew me to love my introductory Ra Ra track, “The Orchard,” in 2010. A full year since original cellist Alexandra Lawn’s departure, the band certainly hasn’t missed a step in keeping with the upbeat harmonies of the cello and violin string duo. Though as LAmb’s Sarah Bellman brought to light in her Beta Love review, each new album has featured less violin and fewer harmonies, but the onstage lineup brought those strings we missed so much into the live performance of new and old material.
Violinist Rebecca Zeller was charming as ever, providing the supporting vocals that set a foundation for the first two albums and were cherished in moderation in the last. Beaming with smiles, she played a violin that glittered just as much as her dress and the geometric visual backdrop that rose and fell with the tempo of the music. Each member’s devoted performance displayed a sincere appreciation and passion for their skill, and when a band enjoys performing, audience members quickly lose the inhibitions that hold them back from equally enjoying the show, as best exemplified by the dancing that came along with the playing of “Beta Love.”
Miles’ repeated statement of “See you guys soon” throughout the set left me hopeful that the indie rockers will add more West Coast dates to their tour roster shortly. We’ll keep you posted!
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