Ra Ra Riot initiated the party last night at EXPRESS LIVE!. I think its sound is better suited for a smaller stage, like A&R Bar where they played back in April, but it was cool to see them graduate to the big stage.
After Ra Ra Riot’s performance, the stage opened up for the headliner, Young the Giant.
Young the Giant began their set with “Jungle Youth,” a song from its newest album “Home of the Strange.” This song got their set off to a very anticlimactic start. When I listen to this song through my earbuds on my way to class, I can’t help but punch the air in time to the gnarly guitar intro. When it was played live, the delivery totally lost sight of the grunge and meat of the instrumentals.
This wasn’t the only instance like this last night.
“Art Exhibit,” another song from the new album, was a huge disappointment. Lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia began the song under a lone spotlight with his ukulele. In the studio version, this very lighthearted intro builds into a strictly dichotomizing, rumbling guitar feature. This contrast, which could have been cool, was completely underdone. The volume of the feature was probably a five when it should’ve blown out the speakers at an 11. This song had potential to surprise and impress concertgoers who weren’t familiar with it, but the performance of it last night was very forgettable.
“Cough Syrup” and “Apartment,” two of the biggest hits from the band’s debut album, both fell flat as well. The band seemed tired as they just stood behind their instruments and looked down at their strings the whole time. Gadhia gave us some good energy exuded through dance moves in his orange jumpsuit but he couldn’t quite bear the weight of the whole collective. I get it, these guys have played these hits to death, but for most people in the crowd, it is their first time hearing them live. These are the jams that a band has to nail. They need to cater to all the ticket holders who are expecting to be blown away by a live performance of the songs they’ve heard on the radio for years.
Thankfully, Young the Giant’s stage was in great array. Assorted pennant flags lined both sides, and the backdrop bore a giant mountain equipped with several LED effects to fit the moods of each song. “Titus was Born” worked in great harmony with these stage effects. This song began with cool, smooth vocals and gentle accompaniment from the band and also a starry night speckling the night sky behind the mountain. When that warm, gooey bass finally entered and the song picked up, the sky shifted to orbs of bright colors and the stage flooded with dancing spotlights. This was a huge bright spot in the engineering of the show.
Gadhia himself stole the night with his incredibly controlled vocals that sound just as good on Spotify as they do in person. These skills were showcased well in “Mr. Know-It-All,” which also provoked the most energy from the entire collective than any other song. That makes sense because this is a tune from their new record with a pretty groovy beat that they have yet to grow tired of, unlike their hits from 2011. But it was during the second song of the encore that I was truly wowed by the vocals. Besides the trademark slides between his chest and head voice, “Silvertongue” doesn’t seem overwhelmingly difficult to sing for Gadhia, but last night, he hit every note with such defined precision and passion. I almost felt guilty for singing along and muddling the almost perfect sound.
Predictably, Young the Giant buttoned up the night with “My Body” that sent hundreds and hundreds of silhouetted hands up into the smoky air. Of course it was fun to see everyone lose their minds, but it wasn’t loud enough for me. I wanted heavier, almost distracting guitar during the infamous chorus.
So, in true fashion of their closing song, I was left screaming, “I want more” from Young the Giant’s show.