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Cage the Elephant, other bands put on a high-energy holiday show at the Midland

Friday night at the Midland theater, Cage the Elephant —drummer Jared Champion (from left), vocalist  Matt Shultz, guitarist Lincoln Parish, bassist Daniel Tichenor and guitarist Brad Shultz — a holiday mini-festival sponsored by radio station KRBZ.
Friday night at the Midland theater, Cage the Elephant —drummer Jared Champion (from left), vocalist Matt Shultz, guitarist Lincoln Parish, bassist Daniel Tichenor and guitarist Brad Shultz — a holiday mini-festival sponsored by radio station KRBZ. Jive Label Group

Friday night’s show at the Midland theater featured four bands with disparate sounds but some common traits: They all threw down melodies, riffs and grooves with an abundance of energy, easily stirring a sold-out crowd.

Two local bands opened the show, a holiday mini-festival sponsored by radio station KRBZ (96.5 FM), known as the Buzz. The Architects hit the stage early, not long after 6 p.m., yet about half of the 2,800 fans who eventually showed up were already there, giving the openers a raucous reception.

Christopher Meck has joined the brothers Phillips as lead guitarist, replacing Keenan Nichols, but their sound remains brawny, bare-knuckled rock, loud, primal and visceral. Their set included tracks from “Border Wars: Episode II,” one of this year’s best local albums, and a headbanging cover of AC/DC’s “Sin City” that meshed seamlessly with their own material.

The Beautiful Bodies kept the inferno going during a set that included songs from an impending album, their first on Epitaph Records, the major independent label they signed with this year. It also included fan favorites like “You’re a Risk” and “Invincible,” a power-pop/punk clarion call that aroused one of the loudest and rowdiest sing-alongs of the night.

Guitarist Thomas Becker didn’t climb any walls or mount a stack of speaker cabinets this time, as he’s wont to do, but he and lead singer Alicia Solombrino kept the mood manic and freewheeling throughout the set, stoking the energy in the pit by crowd-surfing while singing and playing. At show’s end, Solombrino took a selfie standing atop the crowd, in the hands of several fans. The show was the Kansas City debut for the Bodies’ new drummer, Diamond, who added to the fever pitch on stage.

The Cold War Kids, a five-piece band from Long Beach, Calif., followed the Bodies. If Hothouse Flowers were from Memphis instead of Dublin, they might sound like the Cold War Kids, who blend indie-rock and pop with the blues and blue-eyed soul. There is a derivativeness to their sound, but performed live, their songs deliver more vigor and grit, thanks in large part to lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Willet, a skilled vocalist and polished front man. The crowd was familiar with most of the set list, which included favorites like “Louder Than Ever,” “Hair Down,” “First,” “Hotel Anywhere,” “Hang Me Up to Dry” and “Hospital Beds.”

The headliners took the stage at 10:15 p.m., about four hours after the Architects started things. Cage the Elephant is a six-piece from Bowling Green, Ky., and its sound is a potent mix of emo, punk, grunge, pop and indie rock, some of it accented with fits of psychedelia. Matt Shultz is a head-thrashing lead vocalists who puts on rock-star airs and strikes rock-star poses, adding to the molten verve that flows from the stage. Their 14-song setlist included “Aberdeen,” “Cigarette Daydreams,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Telescope” (a rare ballad), the rib-rattling anthem “Back Against the Wall,” “It’s Just Forever,” “Teeth” and “Come a Little Closer,” which rode a light R.E.M. jangle. They closed with “Sabertooth Tiger,” a blast of punk mayhem that expressed a heavy Arctic Monkeys flavor. Most of the big crowd hung around for the finale, which, like much of the five hours of music that preceded it, had a lot of people bobbing and dancing.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

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