A Ra Ra rocking homecoming

Review: Indie rockers Ra Ra Riot played an intimate, unforgettable show for its alma mater in Setnor Auditorium on Wednesday night.

From beginning to end, the show was captivating and special. Taking the same stage that many of the band members had performed on as Syracuse students proved to breathe a unique energy into the show.

The chemistry between front-man, Wes Miles and the rest of Ra Ra Riot was one that became more contagious as the night continued. Rebecca Zeller looked as beautiful as her violin playing sounded. Mathieu Santos and Milo Bonacci bounced around the stage while Kenny Bernard’s face was glowing from behind his drum set. The wooden walls of the auditorium made the music sound as full as the band made the stage look.

However, a full sound was something that the band had no trouble achieving on their own. A few songs into the show, the renowned string quartet, Wired Strings, joined Ra Ra Riot on stage. The already mystifying, thick music of the band was taken to an entirely new level.

The show kicked off with “St. Peter’s Day Festival,” the song that the title of Ra Ra Riot’s album, The Rhumb Line, was derived from. The opening song choice was more than appropriate, as The Rhumb Line was written during the bands time as students at the university.

Before continuing the show, Miles addressed the crowd with gratitude and mentioned that he had met some great students during their four-day residency in the Setnor School of Music. Cheers erupted from the balcony of stage left, where the most enthusiastic fans danced all night.

“We must have met you,” Miles responded cheerfully. 

Soon, the entire crowd was as enthusiastic as that cluster of fans in the balcony and Ra Ra Riot was so very clearly feeding off of the energy. Their set, which was full of fan favorites, was also studded with songs off of the bands upcoming release, Beta Love.

The more dramatic, geometric vibe that the Beta Love tracks boasted made it easy for the crowd to clap along and groove with the new songs.

The band didn’t neglect any of their albums, playing songs off of each one of their releases, but the set remained Rhumb Line heavy. The slow, fan favorite “Winter Passing” was particularly magical to hear within the walls of Setnor Auditorium.

“That last song was written about being lonely during the winter in Syracuse. I’m sure you all know what that’s like,” Miles and the other members of Ra Ra Riot had not shortage of ways to relate to the crowd all evening.

Toward the end of the show, after Miles thanked the audience amply, violinist Rebecca Zeller asked the music students in the crowd if the concert would count toward their class required amount of shows to attend, a quota which she failed to meet while she was a student.

The the show culminated with the bands most popular song, “Boy.” The energy that built throughout the show was encompassed and multiplied as soon as the opening keys were struck. Fans made their way to the aisles leading up to the stage in order to have more space to end the night dancing.

While the bands instrumentalists extended the song with a long, dramatic ending, Miles high fived every single person standing in the front row. Fans in the balcony weren't neglected. After having a bra thrown onto the stage, Miles picked it up and flung it back into the crowd, just before climbing the side amps to give the balcony fans their due high fives.

While it was the best possible way to end the show, the crowd knew that nobody was ready to go home. Ra Ra Riot exited the stage for mere moments before returning for an astonishing encore.

The band eased the audience back into the show with the slow, sultry title track off of their sophomore release, The Orchard. Before finishing the encore with the most iconic track off of The Rhumb Line, "Dying Is Fine," the band played another crowd-pleasing, new song.

Between intimate conversation and an insurmountable amount of dancing, considering the theater-seated venue, fans and the band alike were left completely satisfied when the show ended with its three song encore. While the members of Ra Ra Riot make frequent trips back to their alma mater, there is no doubt that this night was one that will stand out in the minds of all who were a part of it for a very long time.

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