Cold War Kids | 10.11.08

cwk.jpg"This song’s got a story to tell. All these songs are stories."


The Vic, Chicago

The lights dimmed, the crowd roared, a skeleton appeared on the back curtain, and the band’s chosen house music accompanied their entrance to this sold-out Saturday night show. Singer Nathan Willett delivered his lines from an organ, creating an odd energy on stage. Backed by stark white lighting (for most of the show, actually) and the near-manic movements of bassist Matt Maust and guitarist Jonnie Russell (the latter of whom initially split his time between axe licks and rattlesnake-like maracas), Willett’s static placement struck a sharp contrast.

Following crowd-favorite "We Used to Vacation" and newbie "Mexican Dogs," Willett assumed the standard frontman position for "Something Is Not Right With Me." I was suddenly struck—moreso than with the recordings—that he has very much the voice of a prostheletizer. I began to picture this a modern-day revival, preaching to the faithful, hanging on your every word (and singing along). During singing/playing breaks, Willett does a strange kind of dance-walk backwards in a circle, snapping to himself. The songs pretty much segue one into the next: there’s not a lot of talking or tuning.

Another new one—"Every Man I Fall For"—and the crowd maintains a high level of ecstasy, different than a St. Louis crowd somehow. They’re somehow more united, more unequivocally accepting, eating up every song as if it was a gift just for them. They’re packed in like sardines and they couldn’t be happier.

As if the white lighting—often just backlighting the performers on stage, masking their features in a vast wall of shadow—weren’t stripped down enough, the lights were extinguished for "Robbers"; instead of overhead lights, band members shone two bright spotlights into the crowd for the entirety of the song. While it felt fresh at first, it soon began to feel like a joke gone on too long.

Mid-set, there it was: that signature bass line of "Hang Me Up to Dry." With the crowd’s enthusiasm and Willett doing his awkward dance in between verses, the effect was absolutely stunning. He’s got a little Ian Curtis in him, that one, especially in his stocky appearance and gawky movements.

The encore included "Against Privacy," which Willett described as "a song about our youthful ideals." Before the already-classic "Saint John," he summarized the night—and the band’s career: "This song’s got a story to tell. All these songs are stories."

Opener A.A. Bondy was more entertaining for his awkward stage patter than his stripped-down, folk/acoustic music. Case in point: After a couple solo songs, his band (drummer and bassist) joined him on stage. His response? "I’m terribly thrilled about this. It’s good not to be alone." | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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