The Naked and Famous, The Colourist House of Blues October 3, 2013
Let's talk clichés. One of my favorites is the one about the burden of having that "one song." Sure, it makes you money and gets audiences in the door, but money doesn't buy happiness and is playing to the wrong crowd really better than playing to no crowd at all?
I have no idea if The Naked and Famous have thought about any of those things ever. In fact, judging by their stage banter, I imagine that they're pretty happy with their current lot in life. They exist in that happy middle ground that makes them too new and too old to be a one-hit wonder. Right now they're a promising band who has one really great breakout single that sells tickets and a pair of records with quality material that hardcore fans can obsess over.
The good news is that they are also a solid live band, perhaps even great, as anyone who really listened would discover. And if you couldn't pay attention to the quiet moments, well, at least they did a really good version of that song you like from that commercial.
Before TNAF took the stage, the crowd was treated to a solid set from The Colourist. The band made mention a couple of times of the fact that they're from Southern California, which explains why their brand of indie-pop is so damn bright and infectious. They're the type of band that you can easily see headlining a show at Fitz once they get the right single recorded.
On the whole they did a good job of winning the crowd over, aside from the unfortunate decision to drop an acoustic number in to the middle of their set that damn near got drowned out by the chatty crowd. They recovered nicely, and by the end of their set they had most of the crowd dancing.
Major kudos to Maya Tuttle in particular for making something that I assume is difficult -- playing drums and singing while also having long hair -- look very easy.
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The Naked and Famous have two modes. The first is quiet and atmospheric; the other is rocking and anthemic. They are at their best when they blend the two together, the loud parts providing the catharsis to the quiet buildup. That kind of action started early with their set opener, "A Stillness," which builds over the course of a few minutes until exploding in to a foot-stomper you can't help but move to.
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Singer Alisa Xayalith has a deceptively strong voice. In the soft moments it's hard to imagine it working with the rocking parts, but when she soars all over "I Kill Giants" it makes perfect sense. "Punching In A Dream" works on a similar level, but with a bit more -- pardon the pun -- punch.
The highlight of the night came early, when due to a microphone malfunction Alisa and TNAF's other vocalist Thom Powers had to share a mike on "Girls Like You." They handled it like professionals, albeit professionals who couldn't stop giggling at the absurdity of the moment. It was adorable, one of those moments that make you really root for a band because you're getting a look in an unrehearsed, "real" moment and discover that they're pretty cool people who handle pressure with a laugh.
All in all it was a rock-solid performance by a band that, although they might only have that "one song" right now, appears to have a bright future ahead. You get the impression that in an ideal world where they were playing to fans who really cared about the music and knew how to behave they might just put on the show of your life.
About 600 words ago I was talking about and talking in clichés. I'm going to end with one, because although it flies in the face of decades of music journalism, this one time I can't help but feel it makes perfect sense. Yes, I'm going to quote "Young Blood" and yes, it's going to be totally cheeseball, but it was what I thought then and what I still think now:
If only the crowd had paid attention to the lyrics of the song they were so eager to hear. "Can you whisper?", indeed.
Personal Bias: According to my iTunes account, "Young Blood" is the second most played song I own -- 84 spins, in case you're curious.
The Crowd: Young, but not "wear little to nothing, pop some molly, and dance all night" young. Ignoring the talking, they were very polite, with people actually apologizing when they bumped into you. Shout out to the one person rocking a little New Zealand flag.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Go home if you want to talk. Literally," said one particularly annoyed concertgoer. That he felt the need to say this loudly during a quiet song is... well... you figure it out.
Random Notebook Dump: I don't typically have a problem with people taking selfies during a show; I think it's distracting and unnecessary, but it doesn't make me angry or anything. That said, if you must do it, at least make sure that the end result actually shows you were at the concert. There's no point going through the trouble and looking like a tool to everyone around you if the shot is basically the same one you'd have gotten in your driveway.
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