Tuesday, November 22nd 2011
Shows: Ra Ra Riot
As the temperature dropped, a sold out crowd gathered in hopes that Ra Ra Riot‘s indie pop might warm them up a bit. The New York band, in town to support last year’s The Orchard, did their best with lush strings and melodies better suited for summer barbeques or a road trip with the top down. Recently the tour has been filled with cancellations, including the previous four shows, due to lead singer Wes Miles battling a throat infection. But as the lights dropped at The Metro, the band played a fantastic set with great energy and possibly some relief after a dismal week.
Hitting the stage at 11 as Slayer’s Raining Blood blasted through the speakers, Ra Ra Riot played a 15-song set that included almost every song off their 2 albums. Opening with Too Too Too Fast, the originality and individual parts of the band really came to life. Built on a shimmering synth, the song actually ushers in violinist Rebecca Zeller, who along with cellist Alexandra Lawn became the secret weapons of the night. The string heavy St. Peter’s Day Festival was all the proof I needed, with both girls giving the crowd little jolts and inflections that make the band sound much fuller than any typical four piece band.
Do You Remember was a highlight for the band, originally written for Wes’ side project Discovery; they’ve really managed to make it a signature song that had the crowd in a frenzy. Winter ’05 seemed like a good choice as most of Chicago prepares for cold nights and dreary mornings. As the words “If you were here, winter wouldn’t pass quite so slow” filled the room, it felt comforting despite the despair and gloomy cello.
You and I Know was a hypnotic gem featuring Alexandra on lead vocals. The comparison to Stevie Nicks voice has to be made, whether it was intentional or not, it could be a long, lost Fleetwood Mac song. More than holding her own and dressed for the occasion in a stunning dress, her voice gave a brief glimpse of what could be. If You and I Know was a glimpse into the future, Can You Tell was a look back to one of their earliest recordings. It was apparent that this band has a strong fan base that enjoys their entire catalog, as little as that may be, and not there to just hear the hit single.
Shadowcasting is said to be a favorite of the band and it shows. The upbeat tempo and striking violin had the entire crowd dancing as a single balloon bounced across the main floor. Run My Mouth & Boy kept the party going, especially that rubber band bass line. Before you knew it they were off the stage, only to return a few minutes later for a two-song encore. Each Year is the first song I ever heard from them and it still sounds fresh. The same can be said for the closer Dying Is Fine, one of the few songs to have a strong guitar. Once again, a few words that would normally be considered dark content gave way to a sing-a-long and a satisfied crowd.
With only 20 songs released, fans really couldn’t ask for much more in a set that was just under 2 hours. And while most bands would prefer to play their new material, I found it refreshing that they played more from their debut album, 8 to 7 for those keeping score. The week might not have started on a good note for the band, but from the looks on their faces as they left, they’ll be just fine.
Too Too Fast
St. Peter’s Day Festival
Do You Remember
You And I Know
Can You Tell
Run My Mouth
Dying Is Fine