So of course, when I heard they were coming to Portland for a double stint at the Roseland Theatre, I was ecstatic! I quickly contacted our promotions director here at KPSU, and before I knew it I was interviewing the drummer, Francois Comtois (you can find this interview on our website in the form of a blog post, or you can listen to it on the 4/10 podcast of my show), on Thursday and I was on the guest list for Friday’s performance.
Upon arriving at the venue, Young the Giant’s tech crew was still preparing for their set (unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it in time to see the openers, Grouplove, play their set), so I headed to the bar downstairs for a drink with my roommate Marissa, a fellow YTG fan. Now, if you’ve never been to the Roseland, or if you’ve only been there as a minor, let me fill you in a bit. In the bar is a huge projector screen with comfy seating in front of it, in addition to several smaller monitors hanging on the room’s walls to broadcast the concert live. This was something I hadn’t seen before, so I was pretty amazed.
So of course, before long, we heard the audience erupt with applause when The Muppet Show theme song (that’s right, you heard me!) began pouring out of the speakers, both in the concert hall upstairs and the bar, and Young the Giant’s five members strutted on stage. We rushed upstairs as the Muppets theme faded, and the band picked up their instruments and proceeded to play a closer as an opener: the last track from their album, “Guns Out.” The audience sang and danced along with the band as they played the bouncy backbeat and Sameer entered with possibly one of the best opening lines to a song ever: “Get out your guns, it’s time to start a fight.” Immediately, the audience (including myself) was lulled into a state of rock bliss, falling in love all over again with the music gracing our ears.
Young the Giant are an exceptional live band, demonstrating their abilities to simultaneously execute their compositions to a T and enjoy themselves immensely. They are a fun band to watch, staying as (if not more) animated than the crowd and smiling widely from start to finish. Sameer is a fantastic frontman; he jumped up and down, banged on a tambourine (and on a few songs, a keyboard), and interacted closely with the audience. The chemistry of the band was undeniable; even just in watching them onstage, it was obvious that they have been creating music together for a very long time and are good friends. In addition, their light show was intoxicatingly brilliant, utilizing strobes, multicolored spotlights and bulbs, and fog machines to their fullest extent. Yet the light show was aesthetically pleasing and not the least bit distasteful. YTG played an all-encompassing set that included several tracks from their album, a couple of oldies from their previous EP (released under the moniker The Jakes), and quite a few (surprisingly mellow) new songs, which was very cool; it’s always exciting to see the direction in which one of your favorite bands is heading musically. Just when I thought their set couldn’t get any more diverse, they introduced one of their songs by harmonizing beautifully on a familiar melody and lyrics I quickly recognized as Paul Simon’s Graceland cut, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” Being both a huge Paul Simon fan and a fan of surprise live covers, I was extremely excited. I also noticed that some additional personnel who I didn’t recognize had joined them on stage for this tune. Marissa excitedly informed me that it was Grouplove, of whom she is a big fan. One by one, members of YTG’s opener joined them on stage, singing and playing percussion—specifically, an isolated floor tom in the center of the stage which was danced around and banged on by not one, but two members of Grouplove in a style that called to mind tribal dancing around a fire.
Upon closing their original set with the beach-rock doo-wop cut “Strings,” Young the Giant had yet to play two of their biggest hits, “My Body” and “Apartment,” making it obvious that they would return for an encore. After a brief departure backstage, during which the crowd went wild for more, YTG returned to the stage for their final three songs: the two aforementioned singles, with the beautiful ballad “Islands” acting as an interlude. This delicate, world music-tinged masterpiece shows off Sameer’s gorgeous falsetto and the rest of the band’s instrumental versatility: light, sparse hand-drum percussion; sitar-like guitar ambience; minimalistic, droney bass lines. The show’s closer, of course, was the raucous, swinging, anthemic rocker “My Body,” during which the crowd’s enthusiasm and rowdiness peaked. The vast majority of the crowd was jumping up and down right along with Sameer, and their vocals almost overpowered his as they belted out every single lyric right back at him.
Young the Giant are, in my opinion, one of the most exciting bands out there right now and definitely a group to keep an eye on. Their songwriting is impeccable and their live performance is extremely fun and engaging. I think we will continue to hear music that is both exceptional and enticing from them for quite some time.