Cold War Kids at Pabst: A Review

On Sunday, Feb. 1, Cold War Kids graced snowy Milwaukee with its presence at the Pabst. When I say snowy, I mean I had doubts about the show even going on. Mere hours earlier, I had spent a disgusting amount of time unburying my Civic with a stranger’s shovel, frozen fingers and some momentary remorse for ever moving back from Arizona. Luckily for Mil-snowy, the show did go on, and man—was it a show.

For the entire summer of 2012, all I listed to was Cold War Kids. This is not an exaggeration. Something about Nathan Willett’s voice struck me as artful angst, a perfectly sincere and slightly tortured soul drifting from my ear buds on a hot, humid Midwest day. Cold War Kids is what I’d consider a literary band. Each song is a story, a carefully constructed narrative that’s blunt and poetic. Sometimes, it rubs me the wrong way when musicians say, “I’m a writer first, a singer second.” If Cold War Kids ever says (or has said) that, I’ll wholeheartedly concur.

Elliot Moss opened, an electronic singer from New York reminiscent of James Blake. I thought it complemented Cold War Kids’ more aggressive rock sound nicely as an easy-listening prelude. As a fateful twist of events would have it, while in line for a PBR between the two artists, I was able to say hello to Cold War Kids as the members headed backstage. Fan-girl mode was in full, shameless effect.

After waiting years to see this band, I was left with a satisfied taste. The set was a perfect blend of older favorites such as “Hospital Beds” and “Audience,” while showcasing more recent gems “First,” “Miracle Mile,” and “Bottled Affection,” a personal favorite that was performed in the acoustic “cathedral” version. The band’s attitude toward the extremely receptive, dedicated and probably still half-frozen audience made the entire exchange feel personal, much more like an intimate gathering than some showy concert. Weather? Worth it.

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