Los Angeles - Syracuse band Ra Ra Riot set the stage on fire Friday night, at the Greek Theatre, opening for Young The Giant. As far as openers go, Ra Ra Riot could have easily been the headliner, considering the band’s 2016 record, Need Your Light, is the quintet’s liveliest and most enthused material to date. While the initial incarnation of Ra Ra Riot has seen some line-up changes over the course of ten years ago, current members and musical chameleons Wes Miles (vocals), Mathieu Santos (bass), Milo Bonacci (guitar), Rebecca Zeller (violin), and Kenny Bernard (drums) were all in perfect sync, on a somewhat warm October night in Los Angeles. It was clearly evident Ra Ra Riot was having heaps of fun on stage. With four wide-ranging, genre-bending albums to work with, Ra Ra Riot performed a glorious assortment of tracks, including six the band’s latest endeavor. The combination of string based instruments and a heavy amount of synths provided a great deal of balance for a wonderful and praiseworthy opening set.
The band kicked the night off with “Too Too Too Fast,” a terrific track off the band’s 2008 debut record, The Rhumb Line. Miles’ angelic voice soared over this hidden gem. “Binary Mind” was a solid follow-up, with its great chorus, making for an utterly buoyant offering to the enthusiastic crowd. While most of the audience might have been there for Young The Giant, they did, however, let out a spirited cheer for “Too Dramatic,” a fan favorite of many years, from sophomore record, The Orchard. The strings, alongside the infectious chorus line, “I don’t understand it / You’re too too dramatic,” left this beauty sounding better than ever! “Foreign Lovers” was a sharp one, with a simple, yet effective offering, showcasing great violin work and a frenzy of synths. The eponymous track from Ra Ra Riot’s third record, “Beta Love,” was the true highlight of the night, thanks to Miles’ killer falsetto.
“Each Year,” another one off The Rhumb Line, turned down the synths and headed back to strings and percussion. The lyrics – a nod to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird - are some of the band’s most complex. To get things back on a high note, Ra Ra Riot broke into “Dance With Me,” a splendid, rousing track, that had the crowd dancing in no time flat. “Absolutely” was a snythpop whirlwind, proving to be as addictive as anything Ra Ra Riot has ever produced, with exuberant Miles adding much needed energy to mundane situations. In the song, he even made a shout out to “Los Angeles,” and that, of course, livened up the crowd even more so, producing an animated roar. Miles’ whimsical vocals were clear and chipper over the zooming bass and high-energy drums on “Boy,” which were heightened after Miles engaged the crowd to clap their hands in a synchronize fashion.
“Water,” a very Vampire Weekend-esque track, which comes as no surprise since Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend, helped produced the brand new record, had fans floating on cloud nine, with Miles’ falsetto. The final song of the night came in the form of the epic “I Need Your Light.” Miles asked the crowd to stand up and shine cellphone lights, high in the air. The incandescent number was exquisitely executed. With the crowd shining down the “light,” Miles returned the favor, enchanting the audience with Ra Ra RIot’s hallucinogenic spell.
Need Your Light is available for purchase on vinyl, CD, or cassette via Barsuk Records or for digital download through iTunes. Ra Ra Riot is currently on tour supporting Young The Giant. Head over to the Ra Ra Riot Facebook page for tour dates.
Photo credit: Nicole Busch