Cold War Kids – South Side Music Hall – Dallas Cold War Kids – South Side Music Hall – Dallas

Pictures: Sean Berry Photography
Words: Cody Giles

Amongst the shimmering chaos of the lights bouncing off the thousands of mirrors on the disco ball was the methodically arranged sound of Cold War Kids. The crowd of 600 or so at the South Side Music Hall inside the Gilley’s Dallas Music Complex was diverse to say the least. Frat guys, hipsters, and indie kids all made it out to listen to the Long Beach, California native band.

Unfortunately the show wasn’t sold out, but it’s a larger venue which holds up to 1200 people. Some credit for the underwhelming turnout was certainly due to the fact the show was rebooked after an earlier canceled show this year (after 500 tickets had been sold).

The opener for the show, Fool’s Gold, could be likened to eating an entire box of chocolates at once, and was a bit less than satisfying for my taste. Fool’s Gold, a band out of Los Angeles, brings together a mixture of pop music and African sounds. They made for quite a spectacle. The best way to describe the performance was a watercolor painting drowning in itself. It would be unfair to say that the instrumentalists were not talented, because they are. Individually, the pieces were well played and delivered, but together, not so much. There’s no doubt their music could be heard in a bohemian-style clothing store setting the desired fabricated cultured vibe.

Some heads were nodding with the beats, but overall they looked less than impressed. That is to say, the majority of the crowd looked bored and ready for Cold War Kids to take the stage. All except for the one kid in the crowd who was going out of his way to be entertained. Bobbing his head and moving with the groove of the music. You rock it out kid.

Cold War Kids took the stage with lead singer, Nathan Willett dressed in a button-up shirt tucked into his khaki pants held up with a brown belt looking like he might be going to teach a class at a university. To add to the image of Willett not being the run-of-the-mill “rockstar” was his asking of the crowd if it was OK that he had been drinking white wine back stage instead of a beer. It is Dallas, Texas after all.

“Beautifully odd.” This was the phrase that I had written in my notebook several times while watching Cold War Kids play their set. Several people in the audience said their love for Kids was based on them being different, while I don’t wholeheartedly believe they are that much different, I do feel they have their own unique sound.

It’s a sound that definitely holds the attention of the crowd and almost demands participation. Whether that joining in means, singing along or just being unable to stay in one spot, the music was intoxicating. What I found most captivating about Kids was Willett’s ability to invoke so much emotion with his delivery of the lyrics.

The setlist was well paced and saw the band open with “Royal Blue,” a very rhythm-heavy song with a good bass beat causing the audience to immediately become part of the show. The driving rhythms would continue throughout the night standing out as a theme in the show. At times Cold War Kids were using the crowd like a fifth member of the band especially during the popular song, “Hang Me Out to Dry.” At one point during this track it became difficult to hear Willett over the audience, who were singing at the top of their collective lungs. There is no doubt why this song has caught the kind attention it has.

The show ended with as much energy as it had built up through the night with Matt Maust swinging his bass all around his body. Willett leaned over into the crowd in order to show a little personal love for the audience that had showed them so much enthusiasm during the concert.

Listening to the show in its entirety was like standing in a time-lapse video of a garden growing. As each song progressed, it was like it transformed so organically and effortlessly. Although the crowd may not have been as large as was expected, those who attended got a show that was definitely worth the price of admission. The masterful performance made a great case for Kids being a mature band that focuses on the art of the music and not a band content to create something to be listened to trivially.

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