Ra Ra Riot
When: March 1st, 2013
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and photographed by: Martina Danelaite
Last Friday night, Metro was as foggy and smoky as a non-smoking venue can get. The ornate walls and ceilings of the historic venue clashed with the modern synthesizers and neon bars set up on the stage. The dance floor and the balconies were full of hip partygoers, all warmed up, expectant, sipping on their beers. A loud roar caught me off guard; the lights were killed and the band made their way onto the stage. Ra Ra Riot's first notes started abruptly and overpowered the screaming audience. From the very beginning, the synthpop tunes, the colourful flashing neon lights, and a stray balloon floating around in the haze had me mesmerized. It was so different from the old Ra Ra Riot that I could hardly believe it was the same band.
Just like the elaborate embellishments on Metro's walls and lamps, the band used to rely much more on the baroque sounds of violin and cello. And while the instruments were still present on stage and their interludes were fresh and complementing, I wouldn’t be able to pair the recently released album, Beta Love, with the correct band if it were a matching exercise. The new songs were supposedly inspired by the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson and futurist Ray Kurzweil, but honestly, half of them are indistinguishable from the heaping pile of other synthpop songs that are produced by the bucket load every day. The other half, however, are infectiously catchy and unique, which is what makes Ra Ra Riot such a heavyweight in the indie scene.
“It’s a great night, Chicago! Thanks for having us!” frontman and vocalist Wes Miles said leading into “Come Dance With Me.” The crowd shrieked, letting the band know that this is the type of songs they prefer — cheery, heartwarming, and most of all, danceable. Just like during the other catchy songs such as “Beta Love,” “Is It Too Much,” “When I Dream," and “Angel Please,” the mass of bodies were moving, jumping, dancing, and rubbing (and I'm not just talking about shoulders).
The futuristic sound intertwined with the electric cello and the soothing cry of the violin loosened up the crowd. The limbs that were frozen from the unexpected March cold were thawed out by now, and the light effects were kicking in — flickering in reds, blues, and yellows. But as abruptly as the show started, merely an hour later, Wes Miles was ready to sign out. “See you soon guys!” he said.
Even after the comic encore with a flawless stage dive and scrambling security guards, I didn’t feel like there had been a climax. Just when I really got into it, the show was apparently over; I was perplexed and looked around to see people whispering to each other, feeling the same way. I thought, or I wanted to think, that this had actually been the pre-show, but soon the lights came on, the staff immediately moved into cleaning the venue, and hordes of people descended upon the unsuspecting coat check girl. I felt like I’ve been teased and tempted for an hour, but ultimately left without complete satisfaction.
It was obvious that the crowd loved them, but Ra Ra Riot hardly interacted or gave any love back to this hungry bunch of Chicagoans. I left my beer unfinished and exited the Metro with “When I Dream” lingering in my head — it has been on repeat ever since, annoying the hell out of my roommates. Despite a few misses on the new album and a live show that ended a little short, I would definitely recommend listening to these guys and seeing them on tour.
Ra Ra Riot