Cold War Kids' Lukewarm Friday Night at the Wiltern
View more photos in Timothy Norris' "Cold Ward Kids @ Wiltern" slideshow.
The stage lights set the Wiltern aglow in a lavender haze, four video screens blasted ambient images, but the Cold War Kids were nowhere to be seen. It wasn't one of those Sun 0))) moments, where mystique was the goal, instead technical problems made the Cold War Kids begin with a hiccup. Trudging on through the false start, Long Beach's finest (sorry, Sublime), rolled out a relatively reserved show for a band who used to really rock it.
If we set the Wayback Machine to 2007, we'd see the Cold War Kids owning the stage, Nathan Willet leading his bandmates in sweat-drenched, flailing homages to Bijou porch-stompers. But four years later the Cold War kids have cooled off a little.
Their self-described brand of soul-punk, has evolved lately, largely leaving both soul and punk by the wayside. Willet's pipes still are the finest in rock when it comes to lung-busting crooners, but the new material feels a little "Top 40" and mainstream. Maybe that's their goal. There's nothing wrong with getting big. But can they still rock by taking it down a notch?
They debuted the piano heavy, "Audience," singing an ode to an "audience of one." The Wiltern's audience swayed and chatted over drinks, but only got semi-raucous when The Cold War Kids dropped their phenomenal anthem, "Hang Me Up to Dry." The song from their 2006 album Robbers and Cowards, still has the power to move. The simple bass riff interlocks with the drums, laying down solid foundation for Nathan Willett's howling voice that could raise a congregation's hands to the rafters, or to God, or to whatever.
When Willet pleaded for a death row pardon during "St. John," the sense of urgency, and passion dripped with the swagger of classic Cold War Kids. With a jammy cover of "Long As I Can See The Light," by Creedence Clearwater Revival, they gave another shout out to the songs of the South. But the South Bay residents have largely abandoned their swaggering, backyard sing-a-longs, for more streamlined pop-rock sound. Cold War Kids aren't becoming Coldplay, yet, but they are definitely growing up.