By Alyssa Rinelli Special to OnMilwaukee Published Jul 07, 2024 at 12:31 PM Photography: Ty Helbach

There was something transcendent about Cold War Kids performance last night at Summerfest. 

The lead singer, Nathan Willett, seemed possessed by the music, allowing the sounds to flow over, around and through him until it became one with him. The concert was more than just a performance; it was an experience where the music and the performers melded into something greater than the songs they played. 

That feeling of being part of something extraordinary was palpable as I stood amidst the crowd during a jam session that eclipsed the songs themselves. Despite the no-frills setup – just five guys with their instruments and none of the background screens often seen at Miller Lite stage performances – their musical acuity shone through. 

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Cold War Kids' humble beginnings as a group of friends working at a clothing store in L.A. were evident in their grounded, authentic performance. They achieved early success in 2005 with their debut EP and have consistently released music in their distinctive indie rock and guitar-soaked style since their 2007 debut record.

Throughout the show, I was enamored by the bands versatility. Willett switched from his trademark high-pitched, often warbly vocals to guitar and piano, even delivering an extended piano solo. The keyboardist Matthew Schwartz also switched to guitar, creating a captivating duet with the lead guitarist. The talent required to achieve and maintain this level of fame while playing multiple instruments was evident throughout the show. 

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Milwaukee fans were treated to a mix of songs from their new EP, "CWK," released earlier this year, alongside their classic hits like "So Tied Up" and "First." The crowd loudly welcomed Cold War Kids for their return trip to Summerfest, and Willett expressed his gratitude, stating that this was his best show in Milwaukee yet – a sentiment you could see that he felt deeply.

The 90-minute set concluded with their most popular song, "First," featuring a rockstar ending. The electric guitar, drums, keys, bass and Willett's voice culminated in a cacophony of sound that vibrated all the way to Lake Michigan. The flickering lights and the final note left the crowd out of their seats, absorbing the spiritual experience that was Cold War Kids' Summerfest performance.