Nothing quite signals the beginning of fall like the resurgence of shows indoors at The Wiltern. And for me, Thursday’s Cold War Kids show was emblematic of that transition. Besides, who to better usher in the season of ghouls and goblins than Cold War Kids with their beautifully eerie tones and haunting poetry? And with the skeleton art of sophomore album Loyalty to Loyalty hanging behind him as a backdrop, frontman Nathan Willett was at once the Ghost of Halloween Future and Past.
April saw the release of the SoCal locals’ fourth album, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, but Thursday’s show rather played like a ballad to Cold War Kids’ entire discography. Their set sent goosebumps down my neck as I watched Willett appropriately dance in and out of the shadows, pontificating.
The concert erupted with a raucous rendition of the beat-heavy “Something is Not Right With Me,” and the Loyalty to Loyalty tribute didn’t stop there; “I’ve Had Enough” was next on the set list. Perhaps LA got a more complete dose of Dear Miss Lonelyhearts earlier this year when the band played an intimate gig with Superhumanoids at The Bootleg in February. With the best of Cold-War-Kids-past on display, The Wiltern show was a walk down memory lane. The deafening cat calls at the outset of “Hang Me Up To Dry” and the audience sing-along signaled the crowd was happy to oblige them on this journey.
The band eschewed any sort of formality on stage and displayed one of the liveliest sets I have ever seen. Willett conducted The Wiltern crowd from his perch at the mic like a maestro standing over his orchestra. Bassist Matt Maust skated across the stage, engaging guitarist Dann Gallucci in something akin to wild figure eights. On the first offering from Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, “Loner Phase,” Willett’s staccato charges reached emotionally-fueled pitches unmatched on the record. He put down his guitar for this number and instead, with evocative gesticulations, sent his undivided emotions entirely into his vocals.
The set list became a bit muddled mid-way through and lost some the audience, even those tried and true fans along for the sentimental journey. But these Kids are no fools — like a siren call, a spirited “Hospital Beds” solicited the return of wide eyes and a backup chorus of fans for the set’s final song.
After just a short break, Willett returned to the stage, alone, for a piano-only version of the new track “Bottled Affection.” He took a seat on the bench and looked out to the audience: “All right, stay,” he led us in an a cappella instruction, once again playing the maestro. “You got my attention / All my pain is bottled affection,” he continued.
Once we had that little ditty nailed, Willett took to the keys to lead us in an interactive and blissfully simple take on the tune. It was a simplicity that perfectly complemented the final song of the evening’s encore, the unwieldy cacophony of Robber and Cowards’ steady, the cautionary ballad “Saint John.” As we bid adieu to old “Saint John,” Willett and Co. bid adieu to Los Angeles to hit the road on their fall tour.
Cold War Kids Tour Dates:
09/26 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
09/29 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue
10/18 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
10/19 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
10/24 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
10/26 – Norfolk, VA – The National
10/29 – Charlottesville, VA – The Jefferson Theatre
10/30 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt
10/31 – Asheville, NC – Orange Peel
11/01 – Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall
For more info: