Since the hit release of their debut LP, The Rhumb Line (QRO review), about two months ago, the youthful six-person collective has headlined across the country, played Late Show with David Letterman (QRO Indie on Late TV listings), and more. But Ra Ra Riot’s show at Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) on Thursday, October 16th was a revisit to fans that have loved them for far longer. Thankfully, the group has lost none of their energy, not on a single song.
Still a young band, and with six members, Ra Ra Riot have a limited number of songs that they all know (especially as four of the six from their self-titled debut EP – – were also on Rhumb). This does mean that you know you’re going to hear every song – and since every song is so good, you really can’t complain. The band started old-school (relatively speaking) with both records’ “Each Year”, an uplift that raised the crowd’s spirits for Ra Ra Riot’s “A Manner To Act”. After that, the ensemble played it new and rather soft & sweet with “St. Peter’s Day Festival”, “Oh, La”, and “Winter ‘05”. “St. Peter’s” always has an extra touch, being written by late drummer John Pike, but this is a group that were able to play New York only a month after his death last year (QRO live review) – and that ‘up with people/save the world’ ethos carried right on through The Rhumb Line, and stayed true at Bowery. Songs like “Oh, La” and “Winter ‘05” let the group’s more unique features for indie-rock, including cello & violin from Alexandra Lawn & Rebecca Zeller (respectively), plus singer Wesley Miles’ (QRO interview) higher vox, stand out. The group finished out their softer first half of the set with a cover of Kate Bush’s “Suspended in Gaffa”, a song they’ve really made their own by this point.
Riot/Rhumb’s “Can You Tell” served well as a transition, given the high place it has held in fans hearts for so long. But the electricity really kicked on harder with the new “Run My Mouth”, featuring Miles on keys (perhaps amped a bit by a certain familiar, illegal herbal scent wafting in from the crowd – Miles remarking, “I know that smell anywhere…”). What’s impressive is that the band so clearly keeps up their love and frenetic energy, whether with old hyper favorites like “Everest”, or new hyper favorites like “Too Too Too Fast”. Miles, guitarist Milo Bonacci, and bassist Mathieu Santos still run around, while Zeller perfects her own dance moves and Lawn bops with her cello-frame (often singing to Santos when she’s not doing back-up vocal duties – who sings/shouts right back).
The grand-and-getting-grander Ra Ra Riot ended on their two grandest numbers, both from both Ra Ra Riot and The Rhumb Line: single “Ghost Under Rocks” & “Dying is Fine”. While their entire catalog is strong, perhaps no two songs best represent the band’s energy & outlook – which they didn’t fail to express on either two tracks to finish things off. And the band has picked up at least one new song, which they played as their encore return, returning to the sway & strings of the first half of the evening.
No, there wasn’t any double encore returns like the last time the played Bowery (QRO live review), or any double (or triple) renditions. But while the band has grown up from that ‘Golly, gee!/You really, really like me!’ surprise at their own success, that maturity hasn’t cost them their spark on a single song.