Cold War Kids: Bijou Theatre, Knoxville, TN 12/3/10

Mine is Yours, the forthcoming Cold War Kids album, is a radical departure, downplaying the group’s trademark scorching, story-based soul-punk for a larger, more accessible sound. In some respects, they’ve embraced their inner Kings of Leon, working with producer Jacquire King on a smooth batch of arena-sized anthems that never waste a second, delivering huge hooks and a previously untapped vein of raw emotion.

Playing to a nearly sold-out Bijou Theatre in early December, nearly two months before their album was scheduled to drop, Cold War Kids torched through a killer set that leaned heavily on new material. Despite incessant howls from the largely intoxicated audience (calling for staple Cold War Kids tracks like "Saint John"), the band remained undeterred in their forward thinking approach, bathing the Bijou audience (including a few rowdy members determined to traverse the stage barrier) in spaced-out arena-pop warmth.

Often, when a band works through nearly an entire album worth of new material, there are bound to be rough spots—sometimes the songs are half-formed; sometimes the players simply seem un-confident.  Tracks like "Skip the Cherades" and "Finally Begin" simply exploded with precision and confidence, the dual reverbed electric guitars of frontman Nathan Willett and Johnnie Russell interlocking into space flight over the muscular rhythm section of stoic bassist Matt Maust and drummer Matt Aviero.

A few fan favorites inevitably crept into the setlist ("Saint John", "Mexican Dogs"), but on a night dominated by looking ahead, these sidesteps into the past felt more like speed-bumps. And as good as Mine is Yours is—without a doubt their most consistently engaging work yet—the songs worked on a completely new level in a live setting. With a seemingly unending reservoir of energy and a nearly unparalleled dedication to stage performance, Cold War Kids have positioned themselves at the forefront of the live indie rock heap.

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