Review: Ra Ra Riot @ KCLSU, Feb 17th 09

Ra Ra Riot played their biggest ever London gig last night and one that lead singer Wesley Miles called their ‘most significant one’. In June 2007 the band’s co-writer, lyricist, vocalist, drummer and ‘lifelong inspiration’ John Pike was found drowned in Massachusetts the day after a gig and party. At that time the band were the talk of the music world after impressing at that year’s South By South West festival in Texas and were all set to explode into the public consciousness. As it happened Vampire Weekend stepped into their shoes and did just that as Ra Ra Riot understandably put all their plans on hold to grieve their tragic loss.

Almost two years later and the band have released their debut full length ‘The Rhumb Line’ to rave reviews and have begun to build on what was already a significant faithful fanbase. That’s why Wesley describes this show, which has been moved from its original location at the smaller Borderline, as their most significant London show yet. It’s a sign that things are getting back on track. On the evidence of their debut album, the band’s performance tonight and the reaction, they may even out last Vampire Weekend and many of their peers who got caught up in the buzz.

The six-piece of vocals/keys, bass, guitar/vocals, electric cello/vocals and electric violin occupy the space of the KCLSU stage effortlessly. From Wesley’s energetic stage wandering and playful antics with his guitarists to the beautiful Alexandra and Rebecca on strings, there’s always something good to look at. What really grabs me though is the quality of the sound and delivery of these wonderful songs. Wesley’s vocals and the rest of the band’s instruments used to perfection from early on with a great rendition of ‘St Peter’s Day Festival’ and ‘Oh La’ which apparently has never been sung back to them at such a volume. Ra Ra Riot, Wesley Miles @ KCLSU, Feb 17th 09 by

Their performance goes from strength to strength with the band lapping up the crowd reaction and growing in confidence as they do so. From here on in it’s easy for them, running through album standouts like Kate Bush cover ‘Suspended In Gaffa’ which beautifully showcases Wesley’s impressive vocals, the song that should have been the indie hit of 2007 ‘Ghost Under Rocks’ and the breezy ‘Manner to Act’ from their self-titled, self released 2007 mini album. The band are comfy enough to showcase a well receive new song which I’m afraid they either didn’t name or I didn’t catch. Almost an hour in and the band attempt to wrap up proceedings but they dare not avoid an encore this evening as I get the impression their Syracuse, New York faithful at the front would go and drag them back on stage anyway. It doesn’t take long for them to re-appear and deliver high paced versions of ‘Run My Mouth’ and ‘Too Fast To Finish’ a track which I confess hadn’t stood out to me on record but after this performance is set to become a new favourite of mine.

As well as the Vampire Weekend comparisons the band in the past has been likened to Arcade Fire, this is mostly because of the strings I think as they are a lot poppier than those mighty Canadians. But live at least tonight I’m equally captivated watching these impressive musicians make this London stage their own. Long may they continue.

Ra Ra Riot, Alexandra @ KCLSU, Feb 17th 09 by

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