Ra Ra Riot delivers a long-awaited show at The Westcott

Review: Hometown heroes and SU alums provide a top-level performance Thursday while reminiscing a bit about how it all started.

A full house of college-aged students and Syracuse locals played a game of patience. They waited to see Ra Ra Riot's performance for nearly three hours after The Westcott Theater doors opened last night, but the group's passionate and energetic delivery of a wholesome setlist, lasting a little over an hour, was well worth the wait.

Photo: Harrison Kramer
Wes Miles thanks the crowd at The Westcott Theater after a great performance on Thursday night.

Local group Northbound Traveling Ministrel Jug Band grabbed the crowd’s attention with soul-infused rock, while New Orleans natives Generationals managed to get the audience moving a bit with indie rock grooves. Although the second group was perhaps too focused on impressing with their stage presence, they earned their share of applauses. But the audience saved their heartfelt cheers for Ra Ra Riot.

As they do each time they return to Syracuse, where they forged their band five years ago, the group received standing ovations and warm welcomes from their loyal and proud Syracuse fan base. Ra Ra Riot quenched the audience's thirst for their music through forceful interpretations of their classics. Last night's setlist featured “Too Dramatic and “Do You Remember” from The Orchard, as well as older tracks off The Rhumb Line, including Can You Tell and “Too Too Too Fast.”

Starting with the initial guitar riffs on “Too Too Too Fast" to the ending riffs of Dying Is Fine,” fans were enthralled by Wesley Miles' fervent delivery of lyrics backed up by a fusion of chant-like percussion beats. Milo Bonacci and Mathieu Santos artfully provided agile guitar and bass riffs and cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller's electrified with modern orchestral sounds. During Boy,” Lawn and Zeller's orchestral solo combined with Bonacci and Santos' guitars created an energizing modern electro-orchestral sound frenzy.

The group's stamina reached high levels, as band members bounced during their masterful performances. Their closely-knit relationships were clearly visible and prompted vintage rock concert scenes. Miles ocasionally challenged Bonacci and Santos to guitar/bass duels, and danced alongside Lawn and her futuristic, see-through cello. Close to the end of the show, the vocalist even climbed and jumped off the bass drum, to the crowd's delight. Lawn made a heart-wrenching vocal performance of You and I Know,” and Zeller created a surreal sound atmosphere with classic/pop/rock interpretations on their orchestral instruments, throughout the evening.

The zenith of Ra Ra Riot’s show came last with a forceful finale. Once the group ended their set and left the stage, fans burst into an unanimous chanted request for “one more song.” Ra Ra Riot promptly returned to a ecstatically cheering audience. Although Miles had conversed with the crowd less than usual, he caught up with his discourse during the two hit-studded encore. It included details about the group’s inception, which struck a sensitive chord with fans.

"Does everybody live off campus? Anybody live on Clarendon Street? Anybody live in 211 Clarendon?" Miles asked. “Well, on the third floor there was some magic that happened about five years ago and this next song partly was written on the third floor of 211 Clarendon. That’s a special one.” The infectious Ghosts Under Rocks followed. During the encore's  amalgam of rock and classic sounds, Miles even gave high fives to the people in the front row.

"Thank you guys so much, we'll see you soon," said Miles, preparing to sing "Dying is Fine." "We're gonna leave you guys with the first Ra Ra Riot song – ever. First one we ever had."

All Ra Ra Riot album sales proceeds this week went toward Japan relief efforts through the Red Cross, the group tweeted this week.

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