Cold War Kids and Minneapolis’ famed First Avenue are a match made in heaven. For the last decade, the “Kids” have visited the mainroom regularly, about every other year. They recently released New Age Norms 1, the first of a three-album, planned trilogy (in the spirit of Green Day’s Uno!, Dos! Tre!). The sold out Friday night show featured the majority of the eight-track album but also many of their hit songs, including alternative song of the decade, “First”. Now bring on New Age Norms 2 and 3!
First, we had the good fortune of a strong opening performance by Overcoats, the Brooklyn-based harmonizing duo of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell. Elion told us that it’s no secret that Minneapolis is their favorite city. It better be, as they have performed here SEVEN TIMES over the last three years, playing a headlining show at the 7th Street Entry back in 2017 and opening for the likes of Tennis (twice), Maggie Rogers, Mitski, Two Door Cinema Club, and now Cold War Kids. The mainroom was already loosely packed for the 9pm start of the opening set.
They opened with “Apathetic Boys”, and it’s cool bass line. Elion, tends to sing the primary melody, with Mitchell complimenting with her harmonies. The synchronicity is incredible, almost like one person singing with a dual-tone voice. The pair’s hair has grown back pretty quickly to mid-length, after they each bravely allowed their hair to be shaved off for the filming of their September 2019 video for “The Fool”. Elion wore glittery silver platform shoes with her leather pants, while Mitchell had some equally impressive red boots below her floor-hugging jeans. The two were supported by two strong touring musicians, introduced as Maddie on drums and Sara on keys/bass/guitar, that provided the varying beats and rhythms supporting the beautiful vocals.
We heard several songs from Overcoats’ 2017 album, YOUNG, including “The Fog”, “Leave the Light On”, and “Nighttime Hunger”, before Mitchell asked, “Can we try a new one?” The new one was “If you leave”. I really like this slower song that builds at the end. They also asked if they could play a cover and if any requests. After chuckling at suggestions like “Rare” by Selena Gomez and “Yummy” by Justin Bieber, they took the safe route and played the cover they regularly play, Hozier’s “Cherry Wine”.
Overcoats released their three-song EP, The Fool, back in September and they would close out their opening set with three of their final four songs being this trio of new songs. I loved “Keep the Faith” and “Leave If You Wanna” is also very catchy. But “The Fool” is the clear hit song from the EP and a strong closer to their show, with the powerful chorus, “My road/My home/Everything I know!”
Apathetic Boys/The Fog/Leave the Light On/Nighttime Hunger/If You Leave/Cherry Wine/Keep the Faith/I Don’t Believe In Us/Leave If You Wanna/The Fool.
COLD WAR KIDS
The sold-out First Avenue mainroom continued to fill during the set changeover as the stragglers filtered in on this mild January night. It was now tightly packed as the stage screen was raised and Cold War Kids ran on stage. Frontman Nathan Willett, wearing a jean jacket, grabbed the microphone stand and immediately tore into one of their biggest hits, “Love Is Mystical”, and asked the crowd to get their hands up and move them forward and back. The thirties-heavy crowd was quickly into the set, moving their bodies, and ready for more. They received it with “Miracle Mile”, a fast-paced hit from Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, with its distinctive, “Come up for air, come up for air.” These opening numbers highlighted the energy and hit-writing ability of the band as well as the piercing high-toned voice of Willett which gives Cold War Kids their patented sound.
Willett now took time to tell us how much they appreciated being back in Minneapolis, one of their favorite places. He also mentioned their new album and how they would play many of its songs tonight, the first being their current radio single, “Complainer”. Quickly teaching us the “Don’t sit around and complain about it” part, they moved into the hit that’s been taking over today’s radio waves.
We also heard some older songs. Such as when Willett asked, “Minneapolis, do you know this?” They clearly knew “Hang Me Up To Dry”, singing along loudly, earning a “Thank you guys” from Willett. The singer used the upright piano briefly during that song but would use it more extensively on upcoming songs, such as “4th of July”, which he told us was off the new album and about this complicated American holiday. This slow, soulful song featured the singing guitar work of David Quon, the most recent addition to the band back in 2016. The rest of the band is has been together since 2014. Matt Maust is on bass, Matthew Schwartz on keyboards, etc. and Joe Plummer on drums. These guys took a well-deserved break while Willett stayed at his piano and sang a solo version of “Beyond the Pale”. That is, until Hana and JJ from Overcoats pranced on the stage to assist him with background vocals.
The band returned for “Mexican Dogs”, which turned into an instrumental jam session highlighted by some spirited piano playing. I was happy for the inclusion of “Louder Than Ever” and especially “Hot Coals”, which is one of my favorites. “Can We Hang On?”, from LA Divide, was another song that pulled the audience together to sing along loudly with Willett. It really is a beautiful song and it received a huge roar at its conclusion. Willet sat at the piano again for their first single from New Age Norms 1, “We Used to Vacation”, which concluded with an intense instrumental flurry by the band. After “Hospital Beds”, the main set concluded with that top alternative song of the last decade (at least in terms of radio station spins), “First”. I can believe it. I’ve heard it so many times on so many stations and now got to hear it live. Awesome! No one was too sad, seeing the band exit the stage, knowing there would be an encore.
“All This Could Be Yours” was the first song of the encore and actually the lead single from their album, Hold My Home, the same album containing “First”. While that additional hit would have likely sufficed, the band finished even stronger with the up-tempo “Something Is Not Right With Me”, for a furious crowd-involved conclusion to a great Friday night at First Avenue.
Love is Mystical/ Miracle Mile/Complainer/So Tied Up/(Unknown)/Hang Me Up to Dry/Dirt In My Eyes/(Unknown)/4th of July/Beyond the Pale/Mexican Dogs/Calm Your Nerves/Louder Than Ever/Hot Coals/Can We Hang On?/We Used to Vacation/Hospital Beds/First.
Encore: All This Could Be Yours/Something Is Not Right With Me.
(Sorry, I didn’t recognize a couple songs they played.)