Last Night: Cold War Kids at the Samueli Theater

Cold War Kids at Samueli Theater, March 26, 2008
A review by Andrew Youssef

Better Than: Seeing the Cold War Kids open for the White Stripes at The Forum.

Download: Heavy Boots from their long out of print Mulberry St. EP

PhotobucketCold War Kids dropped by the Samueli Theater for the third installment of the Off Center Series. The Kids hadn't played in Orange County since their December 2006 Detroit Bar gig, although their most recent performance in Southern California was a sold-out show at the Wiltern in LA in November 2007.

The show was a benefit for a nonprofit organization Water Wells for Africa, a Southern California-based organization that brings clean water to the villages of Malawi. It also featured photographic prints by Matt Wignall, who is the Cold War Kids' staff photographer. Matt was asked to document the work of the organization and flew to Malawi. After admiring Matt's work for a while, I entered the rapidly filling theater.

I was worried that the Cold War Kids might be rusty, as they haven't played a show in quite a while, but my fears were quickly dashed as the band opened with the wistful, piano-laced tune "Avalanche." The Samueli Theater made for a perfect cozy and intimate venue for the Cold War Kids. I could clearly hear Jonnie Russell's guitar reverberate as Nathan Willett captured the audience's attention on stage. "Bullies" was another new tune that had fractured, reverberant guitars slowly building up momentum before unraveling in grand fashion.

Piercing screams from the crowd greeted the characteristic rattlesnake shake of "We Used To Vacation" as it hissed over the audience. Then came an unexpected and amazing cover of "Furniture" by Fugazi. Cold War Kids managed to amplify the tension and angst of the song by making the song more claustrophobic. Jonnie, Nathan and Matt Maust (bass) were bouncing around and into one another like pinballs as they played another new song, "Occupation."

"Mexican Dogs" continued the new song hit parade; this song completely rocks and would be the most logical choice for a lead single for their upcoming album. "God, Make Up Your Mind" slowed down the new song fury as Nathan tickled the ivories. The applause heated up as "Hang Me Out To Dry" had the fans in the front of the stage dancing and throwing their hands in the air. "Hospital Beds" was also very well received, with approximately 65% of the audience singing along. After a short break, Cold War Kids came back with another new song and the double shot of "Passing the Hat" and "Saint John."

It's very unlikely Cold War Kids will perform in this small of a venue ever again, judging by how sharp the new material sounded and by the intensity of their performance.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I have the same reverb pedal in my guitar setup as Jonnie Russell.

Random Detail: If you look in the liner notes of the Thrice album The Artist in the Ambulance, you will see the Cold War Kids credited for the artwork.

By The Way: Cold War Kids' next show will be at Coachella, April 26.

To view a slideshow of the event, click here.


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