Live Review: Young the Giant at The Egyptian Room

Young the Giant

Young the Giant confidently make impressive Indianapolis debut

On Tuesday night, Young the Giant made their inaugural appearance in Indianapolis to a crowd of roughly 1,500 in The Egyptian Room at Old National Centre. Young the Giant, comprised of Sameer Gadhia on vocals, Eric Cannata and Jacob Tilley on guitar, Payam Doostzadeh on bass, and Francois Comtois on drums, played a 75-minute set with all the talent and heart you would rightfully expect after countless listens to their eponymous debut and stories of their fully rewarding live performances from their rapidly multiplying fan base, thanks to a litany of summer festival appearances and sold out headlining tours over the past two years.

The young Californians exuded a stage presence and a richly honed sound that lived up to the high praise on Tuesday. What you see (and hear on album) is what you get with Young the Giant live. They aren’t interested in pulling any wool over your eyes, being ironic, or trying to be anything different than all the things that made their hugely satisfying debut record popular and sent “Cough Syrup” and “My Body” soaring up the alternative rock charts to #2 and #4, respectively.

This five-piece of longtime friends are young guys (Gadhia celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday night) playing at levels of accomplishment and poise that are bona fide rarities in 2012. Getting a young, indie rock band with pop sensibilities on a label like Roadrunner onto the mainstream radio these days is impressive. Having the songs that soar up the charts be ones melodic enough to draw in the radio masses while sustaining the indie crowd with more disparate tastes is a nearly miraculous achievement.  As the airplay and media usage of “Cough Syrup” and “My Body” have become more ubiquitous (Glee, movie trailers, etc.) in the past year, Young the Giant have been able to sell out theatres and larger venues across multiple continents. It’s easy to forget they have one twelve-song record under their belts, and it was a record the guys wrote and recorded when they were barely out of their teens.

Keeping those facts in mind is what makes a Young the Giant performance so deeply fulfilling.  The band plays to a crowd of 1,500 with the very sonic precision and charms they stamped on record. They pull off the sound with more confidence in their playing than the vast majority of bands with people 22 or 23 years of age could dream of doing in such an environment. You don’t go into a Young the Giant show expecting a sweaty, blistering set of violent rock and attitude.  You should go in with what you know from their record: Young the Giant play strong, melodic songs with promise, a few outstanding ones, and some truly exceptional moments are the ones that will be the memories lighting up your mind for days.

Young the Giant, at this point in time in popular music and blogosphere culture, aren’t one of those bands that will bring you “indie cred” by saying how excellent they are (Sadly, you may have won such credibility making that statement in early 2011 upon the album’s initial release, but you have to jump off the train when they shoot up the radio charts in order to retain the credibility), but when you see them play live, the Young the Giant’s wealth of talent and enduring melodicism are undeniable.

After seeing the band perform, the only apt live comparisons to strike me are U2 and Coldplay. The majority of the kids that have made Young the Giant such a draw won’t understand the U2 comparison or will refuse to hear it; all of the tastemaking bloggers will likely acknowledge the comparison and deride them for exactly that reason.  Alas, I’m the rare guy my age who loves U2 (from War to The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby to All That You Can’t Leave Behind) for all the reasons that made them indispensable in the first place. (I fully acknowledge this is by far and away one of these least cool things a twenty-something music writer could say *[refer to the 3:00-10:00 section of my fellow TST writers’ Crocodiles podcast for proof], but they are a band whose catalog and live performances I will adamantly stand up to anybody and argue to support.)

Gadhia has overflowing charisma and a stage presence that is unparalleled in bands of Young the Giant’s age and make-up. You can count on one hand how many frontmen/frontwomen legitimately enrapture an audience, cover the entire stage, and command your total attention for the duration of a 75-minute set without coming across like a liquor-obliterated asshole or object of complete ridicule.

Young the Giant opened the set with “I Got” and its doo-wop textures and then unleashed a propulsive rendition of “Guns Out.” Gadhia belts out choruses with his vocal high-wire act over the instrumental framework of shimmering guitars and a tight rhythm section better than any band this side of U2. Comtois’ look behind the kit and his pounding military beats being the force that drives everything forward couldn’t have seemed any closer to Larry Mullen in spirit either.

The band played a handful of new songs throughout the set that included post-Hot Fuss The Killers textures, Caribbean-tinged guitar solos, rhythmic explosions, raging blues guitar breakdowns, M83-style draping synth intros, Morrissey/Twin Shadow emotive croons, Strokesy guitar leads, and one blistering song unveiled in the encore called “Teachers” with swirling guitars that pick up the tempo to close out verses, while Sameer burst in during the chorus, screaming and throwing his body all over the stage, looking and sounding unmistakably like Vitalogy-era Eddie Vedder.

Young the Giant offered up “Strings” and “12 Fingers” in the midst of the new material, but the band’s radio anthems were the crowd-pleasers that got bodies moving and hordes singing along in Indianapolis. The one-two punch of third single “Apartment” and massive hit “Cough Syrup” appeared in the first half-hour of the show and were set highlights at that point. Even on a song like “Cough Syrup,” with its tremendous sing-along refrain and gentle chord progression, there is a world of moving parts and translucent riches at work under the hood of Young the Giant’s engine.

I can’t think of another band I’ve seen at this stage in the group’s career that has played live and at this size with such a refined, but delightedly fresh, sound. At many points, the distinct thought struck me that Young the Giant seem to be multiple bands with undeniable individual talents playing at the same time but then miraculously coalescing time and again into a cohesive unit with towering melodies. Comtois and Doostzadeh’s rhythm section is a tightly knit force that pushes the tempo to maximal volume and stomps pulsating beats as choruses kick in. Tilley and Cannata, in particular, flesh out broad, inviting landscapes with shimmering guitar work that jumps between a California coastal vibe, Caribbean jaunt and driving rock and roll. The two sections bounce off one another time and again and then snap back like a rubberband to build the melody. All the while, Gadhia sings the occasionally pretty but understated verse without being entirely stunning, and then he liberates his monumental voice, singing and howling leagues above the instrumental composition and leaving all casual listeners in his wake. If you’re seeking more reasons to check out Young the Giant live or discover why Morrissey has gone on record to proclaim Young the Giant his favorite emerging band, this refreshing cocktail of immense charisma and songcraft is all the reason you need.

The band closed out the Indy set with “My Body,” one of their earliest songs and their magnificent walk-off grand slam. I haven’t seen a crowd with such intense energy, with hands raised to the heavens and feet leaving the ground in unison, on an Indianapolis weeknight since I don’t know when. Young the Giant cut their teeth on the festival circuit playing early afternoon time slots to multiplying hordes of fans. With a sophomore album on the horizon, a history of sold out shows and a label of festival favorites and veterans, look for Young the Giant to be headlining the main stages for years to come. They already perform like they are doing exactly that.


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