Ra Ra Riot captivate Royale

A review of Ra Ra Riot at Royale on October 1, 2010

, Managing Editor

Royale is currently one of the hottest spots in Boston’s nightlife. While the beautifully designed venue is certainly an attraction itself, one of the biggest reasons it’s the talk of the town is the frequent booking of hot young acts. After a captivating show on Friday night you can add Ra Ra Riot to that list.

The Syracuse University graduates hit town behind their recent release, The Orchard. It’s an appropriate title for this group, which branches out from the traditional indie rock sound with a charming layer of strings. Although their name would suggest otherwise, the band proved just how tender they could be with several pop ballads.

With an early set time of 8:30, especially early for a crowd of mostly twenty-somethings, it was impressive to see such a large gathering for the start of the show. The sextet certainly made it worth the fans while. They kicked things off softly with the title track of their new album before quickly displaying their adherence for the Bay State with the peppy Gloucester-inspired track “St. Peter’s Day Festival”. The peppiness continued with “Boy”, the first single off their new album, which proved to be one of the catchiest numbers the group has written.

Vocalist Wes Miles, who was masterful with the mic all evening, grabbed a guitar for fellow new track, “Kansai”, but it was cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller who grabbed the spotlight as their strings carried the number. Lawn would later share her vocal talents as well, lending her breathy, seductive voice to the darker-toned “You and I Know”.

The strings of Ra Ra Riot songs are prominently featured, and the trademark of the majority of their songs, but it’s a testament to their sound that they didn’t completely overshadow the rest of the instrumentation. The group mixes guitar, bass, drums, synth, keys, strings and Miles’ soothing vocals into a beautifully balanced blend. It was especially impressive to see this pulled off so well in a live setting.

After a lively finish to their set with one of their best known tunes, “Dying Is Fine”, the group showed their soft side once again, returning to the stage to perform their second ode to the Commonwealth with new song, “Massachusetts”. Bassist Mathieu Santos drew cheers as he reappeared wearing a throwback Cam Neely jersey, and then kept the spotlight as he joined Lawn and Miles in harmony on the ballad.

The show ended in more energetic fashion as “Run My Mouth” off the band’s first LP The Rhumb Line sent the fans off on a high note. As the show ended before 10pm, the night was still young. What better way to start the evening?

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