Cold War Kids + Muse, Agganis Arena, August 11, 2007
“Backward, quaint, naïve, anachronistic.” Those words — originally from a David Foster Wallace essay, and posted on their Web site — are what Cold War Kids aspire to. But at Agganis Arena Saturday night, the four Kids — in muted-color drainpipe pants — looked and played like most indie-rock bands. Nathan Willet hunched over his microphone and flailed his hands trying too hard to sound like a tenor he’s heard somewhere before. (Jack Black? Brandon Flowers?) Jonnie Russel high-stepped under his guitar, and he and Willet occasionally collided like kids in a garage. When they played “Hang Me Up To Dry,” Willet strained to make their best-known song sound BIG. But the Kids sound better and more like themselves — darker and Deep South — when Willet’s tapping simple piano-bar keys to drummer Matt Aveiro’s steady stomp in their crying song “Hospital Beds.” And it’s hard not to be charmed by the band’s tinkering with bottles-and-tambourine percussion — which sounded like shackles in their death-row gospel “Saint John.”
ANACHRONISTIC: But Muse’s exploding weather balloons of confetti were fun.
The headliners were Muse, and when the lights went out, we rose in the dark to the sound of JFK’s voice intoning a speech about government conspiracies whose text crawled across the screen. When the screen went blank, Muse walked out in green and purple smoke to the opening galactic trance of their “Take a Bow.” Grids pulsed behind them on three screens, and Matthew Bellamy keened softly, “You will burn in Hell.” A ray of light spread like a solar eclipse on the moving crowd — when Bellamy raised his arm and pointed to the rafters, so did the arena. Protest rallies, riots, and lily pads filled the screens; giant white weather balloons floated into the crowd and burst with confetti. Unlike Cold War Kids, Muse actually are anachronistic. Skinny jeans are in, but neon pianos and streaming images of robots and codes are, sort of, obsolete. Muse played “Invincible,” “Starlight,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” and through it all Bellamy was pale and calm. And when Muse ended with “Knights of Cydonia,” his mouth formed a tiny black hole over the mic, and into the black night we marched.
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