Given that this was my first time at the Boston House of Blues, I was underwhelmed by the grimy building and the barely filled general admission section. Was this really the iconic Boston venue that had been graced by artists like Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, and this time, the Cold War Kids?
I settled into an optimal standing spot several feet away from center stage, where the first opener, Kinsey and the Dearland Horns, was playing. A trio gifted with impressive facial hair, Kinsey and the Dearland Horns was refreshingly acoustic and surprisingly mellow for a band opening for the high-energy, instrumentally loud, and somewhat angsty Cold War Kids. The lead singer strummed his guitar while working the drum set composed of a single cymbal, flanked by an electric bass player and a trumpet player. The charming combination of instruments enhanced the quirky and bouncy quality to the singer’s voice, and his wide-rimmed, ’70s-style glasses only added to the eccentric yet lovable image.
As Kinsey finished the last song of the set, the audience greeted the last note with applause and declarations of adoration, ranging from “You’ve got a new a fan” to “I want your beard!” With the remnants of the light, bouncy music washing over the audience, everyone was happily chatting, expecting at least a 30-minute wait for the next opening act. The House of Blues did not seem as dark and gross as it did before; the disco ball glittering on the ceiling and various religious symbols above the stage became charming additions to a venue with much more character than I had realized.
In a remarkably short amount of time, the following opening act, The Maudlin Strangers, began performing. This time, the defining physical characteristic was the hairk: head half shaved, sharp and sweeping bleach blond hair, and dark spikes pointing in every direction. The energy quickly grew as the drummer slammed on the drum set composed of much more than just a single cymbal. Small head bobs morphed to full body bobbing as the audience followed the moves of the over-enthusiastic bass player. The mood grew as the music became more punctuated, and it reached a high as the singer unified the audience with “ooh-ing” in “Penny.” After one more song and bittersweet parting words for their last performance on the tour, it was time for the main act.
And let me tell you, Cold War Kids did not disappoint.
This concert was perfect for both longtime and recent fans of the band, especially due to the well-picked setlist and the band’s seemingly never ending energy. After a short 20 minutes of waiting, Nathan Willet, the lead singer, jumped on and immediately went into a throwback track, “Don’t Let Your Love Grow Away From Me” from their first EP, Mulberry Street, which was released in 2005. When the first chords of the ever so popular “Hang Me Up to Dry” rang through the venue, the already riled-up audience exploded. The setlist followed this back and forth pattern of songs back in the “good ol’ days” and the “hits,” throughout the entire show. As a result, the crowd was always wild, ready for the next familiar lyrics to hit them.
Not only that, their stage presence was incredibly invigorating. I do not know how, but Willet managed to keep the energy levels of the night notched at their highest capacity. His hands coordinated with the words, clutching at his heart when singing the sorrowful chorus of “First” and pointing into the air when “shooting for fame” in the exhilarating “Miracle Mile.” Accompanying his hand motions were his intensely expressive facial expressions, making the audience feel for the husband struggling with alcohol in “We Used to Vacation” or the purposeful loneliness in “Audience.”
This was just the lead singer. With different songs came different staging for the members. Sometimes the guitarist or saxophonist rocked out at front and center, or the lights would focus on the keyboardist, head and hands moving wildly. After 16 songs and an additional two songs in the encore, I was on a musical high for the rest of the night. While this was unfortunately the last performance of their tour, I am sure there will be more to come from this magical combination of people and music. At least for now, I won’t be able to hide the smile on my face when I hear a Cold War Kids track.
Oh and, House of Blues, thank you for providing the right amount of intimacy and charming griminess. I’ll be back again.