Live Reviews

Cold War Kids @ KOKO, London

23 February 2011

Cold War Kids are part of the small clutch of ‘blog buzz’ bands who don’t rely on gimmicks. There are no mysterious personalities, no novelty instruments and they’re not trying to purposely get with the times. Theirs is good old fashioned rock and it’s this that won them a legion of fans in 2007 with their debut, Robbers & Cowards. Two albums later – Loyalty To Loyalty and Much Is Ours – and the Los Angeles outfit return to London to conclude their European tour.

Following two varying support slots – the minimalist but wonderfully loud Wye Oak succeed whilst Wild Palms, despite having an interesting sound, are still trying to figure out how to best use it – the lights go down and the quartet immediately hit the stage with a rare urgency.

Their professionalism and competence is part of what makes them so watchable. They are seasoned pros now and they play for 90 minutes with ease, showing no signs of fatigue and tiredness as their trek across the continent reaches its climax. Nathan Willett, especially when without an instrument, struts around the stage with confidence and, when he asks for a response, it is quickly offered. Bassist Matt Maust casually wanders, occasionally patting band members on the shoulder for no discernible reason other than that he’s just solidly in the groove.

The crowd are not enraptured for all of the gig. For some who may have only listened to ‘the hits’ it’s one new song too much near the end; a pity, because songs like Royal Blue and Skip The Charades can easily compete with the rest of their material. That said, for the most part, they sing back every word. Even deep album cuts such as Dreams Old Men Dream and the delightfully soulful Audience Of One from last year’s Behave Yourself EP are met with enthusiasm.

There are also some real high points scattered throughout that lift everyone in attendance, although they are mostly reserved for cuts from their first release, of which they play a rather generous five songs from. The prominent bass riff-led Hang Me Up To Dry and the bar room singalong of Hospital Beds are reminders of why this 2,000-strong crowd loved them in the first place. The best of these is undoubtedly We Used To Vacation, slowed right down to allow its shuddering and rattling rhythm to shine through as Jonnie Bo Russell balances playing guitar, shaking a maraca and trashing a cymbal with the very same maraca in the same song.

Cold War Kids may not be buzzed about much these days, but they are trundling along their own merry path rather nicely and their impressive catalogue is growing by the year. Hidden away from wider attention they are managing to sell out shows without anyone even realising. At this rate they’ll be the most popular ‘unknown’ indie rockers in town.

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Cold War Kids @ KOKO, London
Interview: Cold War Kids
Interview – Cold War Kids