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Ra Ra Riot

Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA

October 3, 2009

Sawing out the same old tunes for ticket-buying fans would be the undoing of any average rock band — thankfully, Ra Ra Riot is far from average. A tight performance and real musical skill enthralled the Paradise Rock Club, and even the sawing — as delivered by beautiful string players Alexandra Lawn and Rebecca Zeller — urged the Saturday night audience to break into en masse hipster shuffling.

As always, Ra Ra Riot’s sold out performance was approachable and down-to-earth. Upon entering the ’Dise, we walked past the band’s violinist unpretentiously stepping out the front doors to make a phone call. The opening band also shared this theme: Maps and Atlases, a Chicago-based four piece, warmed the crowd with modest, upbeat math rock containing lyrics as indistinguishable as the lead-singer’s features through his bristling facial hair.

Ra Ra Riot’s show, punctuated by three tantalizing, yet-to-be-released songs, cycled through the band’s oeuvre to date playing almost every song off their LP The Rhumb Line, and a couple from the mostly-overlapping EP Ra Ra Riot. Characterized by enthusiastic melodies and beautiful instrumental harmonization set over compelling rhythms, the two year-old debut album never fails to thrill. The ten track album emphasizes the band’s unusual instrumentation without sacrificing any of the band’s unabashed, ebullient rock.

In concert, unlike many of their contemporaries, Ra Ra Riot eschewed the stolid, stoic, indie rock stances: penned between the cello and the violin on either side of the stage, the bands delivered their explosive melodies from constantly changing positions, bumping into one another good-naturedly, and occasionally giving one another a pat on the chest or hug-to-the-head.

While most of their songs were similar to their album-renditions, a new, lo-fi guitar solo was added to the band’s crowd-pleaser “Dying is Fine,” and the increased tempo in “Too Too Too Fast” emphasized the chorus’s careening quality. Sincerity unexpected on a band’s second tour shone through on all of the band’s songs, and their endearing camaraderie on stage made the audience cozy and collegial.

So what can you ask of a band that writes great songs, performs them beautifully, and plays great venues in Boston frequently? New music. Saturday night marked the final show on Ra Ra Riot’s second tour for their first album. While I will be disappointed if they don’t return in the spring, maybe we can sacrifice another excellent concert for an eagerly anticipated new album.