In the midst of an unfathomable winter heat wave, it’s almost as if New York City itself knew that native Californians Young the Giant would be rolling through the Big Apple last night. It’s no secret that we’re pretty big fans of the group, so the opportunity to see them bring their explosive pop rock to the Terminal 5 stage would certainly not be missed. The venue’s notoriously bad sound and a young crowd could do nothing to quell the stadium-sized ambition of Young the Giant as they powered through a solid set of tracks off their 2010 eponymous debut.
I will be the first to admit that I have personally never cared for Terminal 5 as a venue. Its gigantic size and echo chamber-like sound qualities rarely leave a good taste in the mouth of a seasoned concertgoer. Yet Young the Giant’s sleek and sexy rock sensibility helped them rise to the challenge and thrive upon the energy of the sold-out crowd. As an added bonus, the infectiously fun indie pop of opener Grouplove was enough to inspire a decent amount of “pogoing” and pleasant reactions. On record, Grouplove is almost too cute not to love. Thankfully, in this live setting, their syrupy-sweet likability didn’t get lost in translation. The centerpiece of their short set was the iPod-approved electro gem “Tongue Tied”, which caused an army of camera phones to shoot up in the air.
A timely 30 minutes later, Young the Giant emerged from backstage and immediately jumped into bouncy album highlight “I Got”. Frontman Sameer Gadhia (modestly dressed in a powder blue button-down and jeans) flexed his vocal range and magnetic stage presence as he led his band through sweaty, towering rock anthem after sweaty, towering rock anthem. As the set continued, Young the Giant proved themselves to be a well-oiled machine. Considering their only full-length came out almost two years ago, tracks like “12 Fingers” and “Cough Syrup” must be well-worn territory by this point. But the group still performed them with such confident energy and swagger that it took just about all of my efforts to resist throwing up the sign of the horns Ã la Ronnie James Dio.
The only major surprise of the set was a cover of “Empire Ants” by Gorillaz (probably my favorite track off the group’s 2010 album, Plastic Beach). Young the Giant’s take on the slow-building techno masterpiece did away with all the electronics, but kept the euphoric second half marvelously intact. It was a more-than-worthy interpretation that actually ended up sounding like another Young the Giant original, “God Made Man”. That track in turn was saved for the last song of the set and was highlighted by its fiery climax during which Gadhia worked himself up into a screaming fury.
Although the song selection was beautify paced, Young the Giant could finally tease the crowd no longer. As the final song of their encore, they launched into a raucous version of “My Body” (aka: the greatest song Kings of Leon never wrote). From the song’s initial bass drum rumble and swell of guitar feedback, it became quite clear that the entire show had been a slow buildup to this moment. At this point, the fact that Gadhia’s voice had begun to show some noticeable signs of wear and tear as he reached into his upper register was almost completely irrelevant. The possessed audience screamed along with every word at a volume that almost drowned the singer out entirely. The cherry on top was Gadhia’s inevitable stage dive during the song’s final chorus.
Slow buildup? Yes. But along the way Young the Giant provided an hour and a half worth of triumphant, straight-up rock music. Last night, summer came early to New York City, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Photography by Bryant Kitching.
Shake My Hand
What You Get
Empire Ants (Gorillaz Cover)
God Made Man