Nothing like the release of an album the day before a concert to get a band pumped up, and so when the Cold War Kids hit the stage before a sold-out show at the Gothic Theatre on Wednesday night, it was obvious that Tuesday’s debut of “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” was a factor.
“This is special,” said lead vocalist Nathan Willett as he launched into the adamant rocker “Miracle Mile,” the third song of the night – familiar because it’s been out as a single since 2011 — and also the second track from the new release.
The band had led with the title track, and even though it was clear no one really knew “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” the crowd was beyond receptive. It wasn’t hard to be. Based on the four tunes L.A.-based Cold War Kids threw out from the new effort and an earlier listen, “Lonelyhearts” is getting closer to what fans have patiently been awaiting: An alignment of the promise from their first album in 2006, the unconventional blues rocker “Robbers & Cowards,” with some of the catchy hooks and instrumental experimentation they wandered off into with the last two efforts (with mixed success).
With that voice, Willett is like the Ricola man from the cough drop commercials, but it’s as if he can play the part of alpenhorn, too. Occasionally, it completely took over the sound, but most of the time, this band was so focused and tight, it was like being at the end of a tunnel listening to the train on its way out, with Willett’s vocal engine forcefully leading and drummer Matt Aveiro an unrelenting caboose pushing the sound.
With bassist Matt Maust and guitarist Dann Gallucci (formerly of Modest Mouse, who recently replaced Jonnie Russell) providing the tracks alongside, it made for a satisfying show, played by a band that pretty much comes out and gets down to business, with a minimum of chitchat. After sharing how psyched they were to be here right after the album release, Willett checked in once to see how everyone was, later said thank you a couple of times and twice announced how many more songs would be played. Thank you, and good night.
But that left more time for rocking, which was just fine. From the Led Zeppelin-like guitar work on the crowd singalong “Hang Me Out to Dry” – with its quirky keyboard bits — to the soulfully laconic “Every Man I Fall For,” the band never let up its intensity, even imbuing the hypnotic “Cold Toes on the Cold Floor” with a more frenetic guitar back-and-forth that revealed how much fun they were having.
To the band’s credit, no “Mine is Yours.” They finished with the pounding, upbeat “Something is Not Right with Me,” but that was a lie. They’re getting there.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
I’ve Seen Enough
Louder Than Ever
Hang Me Up to Dry
Audience of One
Every Man I Fall For
Cold Toes on the Cold Floor
Fear and Trembling
We Used to Vacation
Something is Not Right with Me
Kyle Wagner is a regular contributor to Reverb and travel editor at The Denver Post.