It’s been a year since Ra Ra Riot graced El Rey’s stage and the excitement for their new album, Beta Love, was palpable. The vast sea of eager hipsters, some more inebriated than others, continually threatened to spill past the designated black lines defining the aisles of the pit, keeping security busy.
In a year, the band has been through so much, including major band roster changes, but one thing’s for sure, they haven’t missed a beat! The normally five-piece band lead by Wes Miles, performed as a sextet, giving the sold-out concert hall far more than they expected.
If the cellist, Rebecca Zeller’s brilliantly sparkling, form-fitting sequined dress was any indication, this show was all about incorporating light to get the party started. Their lighting director, Marcus, staged a tasteful, yet daring use of pulsing LED light columns as a great interpretation of the band’s sound; a juxtaposition between the synthetic and organic.
Musical surprises like unique time signatures and unexpected chord signatures dipped into inventive realms, pushing the boundaries of indie rock into the edges of pop. Still, Ra Ra Riot never lost the party-going audience to the currently popular folksy or melancholy sound. Airtight harmonies sung by nearly everyone on stage, a robust two-piece string section (lead by the sexy and spellbinding Zeller), loads of tambourine, keyboard solos, splashy, yet syncopated drums and a sample machine flourished in their set.
Though Miles and the rest of the band wasn’t as fancily clad as Zeller, their performances riveted the audience equally. Miles’ voice, a cross between Smokey Robinson, Darren Hayes and his own vocal stamp, caressed each song. The bassist, Mathieu Santos, rocked his signature thick-rimmed glasses, dug deep with funky riffs, while the guitarist, Milo Bonacci laid down melodies that stained your thoughts even after the song was over. With much flair, the drummer Kenny Bernard did more than just keep the time, playing like his life depended on it.
The crowd went crazy over hits like “Beta Love,” “Is It Too Much,” “I Know You Well” and “Too Dramatic.” During their two-song encore, an emphatic and humbled Miles high-fived and shook hands with fans standing in the front row.
By concert’s end, Ra Ra Riot shined like indie rock champions, full of energy. Never a lull and definitely a must-see!