Live Review: Los Campesinos at the Varsity Theater 1/29/2011

Playing their 10th show in 10 days, Los Campesinos! didn’t hold back in the slightest Sunday night at the Varsity, playing a pulsating 80+ minute set that made the crowd forget their weekend was almost over. As the band took the stage to a 2/3 full theater (they admittedly never play to large crowds in Minneapolis), we were instantly reminded of the Welsh septet’s sarcastic ways, seeing frontman Gareth Campesinos! sporting a Lil Wayne t-shirt (although he is a self-professed rap junkie).

They started off with a bang, ripping through “By Your Hand,” “Romance is Boring” and “Death to Los Campesinos!,” three premiere highlights off of three separate albums. The spastic start worked the energetic crowd into a frenzy, causing Gareth to later declare “I like your rough & tumble style; just don’t hurt or annoy anyone around you.” While the pace was frantic at the beginning, the ever-outspoken leader of the group slowed things down considerably from there, discussing everything from doing a skit with Prince at their last First Avenue show (no, that didn’t really happen) to their love of the Varsity’s “Indiana Jones” bathrooms.

“We’re from Cardiff, a small city in Wales…which you know as England,” said Gareth before launching into “Life is a Long Time,” an especially introspective track off of the new “Hello Sadness” record that gives a playful, if unintentional, nod to The Cure. LC! were in the zone, though, when they focused on the music and not the minor details in their young careers that caused for some all too excessive stage banter. After a story about pronouncing the name “Craig” turned into Gareth telling the laughing crowd “we invented this fucking language,” I couldn’t help but wish they cut out some of the chit-chat in favor of an extra song or two.

Vintage LC! was on display as “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” and “You! Me! Dancing!” easily got the most rabid receptions of the night, with Gareth peppering in some new lyrics in the latter, jokingly saying they’ll “drink Budweiser til we die,” proudly acknowledging the song’s prominence in various Budweiser ads. The excellent new “The Black Bird, The Dark Slope” was given a stripped down acoustic intro before the band exploded into the heart of the song, but for a crowd craving older material, this number was sadly overlooked.

While Gareth’s quarter-century of angst is definitely what fuels the band each night, keyboardist and backing vocalist Kim Campesinos! offered a delicate balance with her sly smile and breathy accompaniment. As the main set wrapped up with the slow building anthem “Baby I’ve Got the Death Rattle,” the whole band absolutely let loose, shredding around the stage with triumphant looks in their eyes. After a brief break, Gareth thanked the crowd one last time, called himself a “dickhead,” and launched into “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” with a kind of race-to-the-finish vibe that only a band that finally gets a day off would appreciate.

-Steve Skavnak (@steveskavnak)

SETLIST

•BY YOUR HAND
•ROMANCE IS BORING
•DEATH TO LOS CAMPESINOS!
•LIFE IS A LONG TIME
•A HEAT RASH IN THE SHAPE OF THE SHOW ME STATE; OR, LETTERS FROM ME TO CHARLOTTE
•SONGS ABOUT YOUR GIRLFRIEND
•WE ARE BEAUTIFUL, WE ARE DOOMED
•THERE ARE LISTED BUILDINGS
•STRAIGHT IN AT 101
•TO TUNDRA
•THE BLACK BIRD, THE DARK SLOPE
•YOU! ME! DANCING!
•THE SEA IS A GOOD PLACE TO THINK OF THE FUTURE
•HELLO SADNESS
•BABY I GOT THE DEATH RATTLE
•SWEET DREAMS, SWEET CHEEKS (ENCORE)

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