Young the Giant Live. The band name alone promotes two obstacles this show was going to have to overcome. 1) Young – An all ages show for a band a vast majority of the population (actually, including myself) discovered during the MTV Music Awards. Yes, that still happens. 2) Giant – Out of all the venues in NYC, there must be 1,000 places to play, Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen is one of the airiest, echo bearing, dysfunctional places imaginable. You might as well hand squeeze orange juice and mix it with Tropicana.
The space is chock full of obstructed view places to stand (obviously you don’t have to stand behind pillars, but why build it like that or have rock shows there?) and the bathrooms insist on creating awkward situations by employing a bathroom concierge. Really!? At a rock show? A bathroom concierge? I pretty much live my life by the credence that if there’s a bathroom concierge, I should not be there.
Needless to say, there was skepticism and a two-touchdown deficit to start the show. Let me backtrack a tad to profess my excitement for the band. I can complain about young people at the show, but I too, discovered the band by watching the MTV Music Awards for the first time in over a decade. The last band I discovered through MTV was probably Pearl Jam. But I digress, Young the Giant did make my Best of 2011 albums list. They seem to have fused the accessible energy of Coldplay’s newer albums with the arty, Peter Gabriel loving, intelligent upper class melodies of Vampire Weekend.
Grouplove did a fantastic job opening the show. I didn’t particularly enjoy the band, nor would I consider purchasing any of their gear, but “the kids” went insane for their upbeat pop sensationalism. I can’t blame them, it looked like fun, but it’s not really my thing. Like people playing Operation in the park. Fun game, I just don’t have steady hands, so I’ll just watch and drink some fine Abitia Beers in the distance. Credit Terminal 5 for having affordable GOOD beer. That’s about the last possible decision you’d expect them to get right, but they did, and it did me right to have a couple of cold ones during the opening set. And possibly a few more during the closing set.
Young the Giant came out around 9:22pm, which seemed about right, since the wonderful (last sarcastic comment about the venue) Terminal 5 has an 11pm curfew. That seemed about right. I only have the one album, although I know they’ve been around awhile and have compiled, and whittled down a somewhat underground catalog. For me, the right opening number sonically for YTG would have to be, “My Body”, but I know they wouldn’t have the balls to do that. That's like eating all the marshmallows in your Lucky Charms before the mushy wheat bits.
Instead, I was delighted that “I Got” was the opener choice, which made me feel silly trying to imagine the band coming right out with their biggest hit, albeit their only really definable red-line rock number. Lead singer and gregarious front man Sameer Gadhia, took the stage dressed exactly like everyone in the audience (not a slight to the venue, slight-slight to the audience?) in blue jeans and a freshly pressed light color button up. He reminds me a tad of Aziz Anzari, but I realize full and well, that’s probably pretty racist. I said it anyway.
The tone, however, was not holier than thou in the least bit. The man came to WORK! He danced back and forth throughout the stage, shaking tambourines feverishly, and confusing the shit out of me by switching microphones every five seconds. There was a brief moment in which Gadhia was shaking two differently weighted tamborines, seemingly at different rhythms, while singing one of the band’s complicated harmonies. I’ve never actually seen anyone do that. The task seems similar to juggling eggs and bowling balls while reciting state capitals.
With the microphones, he typically had one normal microphone in his hand, while having a 50’s style radio DJ looking microphone, glistening in metallic delight, while he’d switch from one to the other, depending on location, sometimes even mid sentence. He did this throughout the set. The glistening metal microphone seemed to have a slightly cleaner sound, but I never did figure out the how’s and why’s on that one. I chalk it up to a kid having fun.
It’s hard not to have fun at a show like this. The music is fun and engaging, giving various groups of people, young and old; rockers and gawkers; beer drinkers in the back and thrashers up front; what they want from a show. You could put their album on with your parents at a BBQ or find it played at a 20-year old’s birthday party with illegal substances. That kind of communal music appreciation is harder to find than you might think. In my family you basically have Johnny Cash, Jack Johnson and CCR, if you truly want something that everyone can agree upon. And I can’t even always sneak Jack in there.
They closed their set with the impressive save your energy for the finale explosion, “God Made Man” which brought Gadhia into a screaming fit. Epic. And lastly, YTG had no choice but to give the kids what they were craving. The encore featured “My Apartment” and closed with a ferocious everybody jump and screaaaaaaam final scene. Everybody leaves happy. There was even an obscure (to me) Gorrilaz cover and multi-piece orchestra ensemble lending determination to diversification.
At some point I decided when I got older I was going to attend every concert I wanted to, because I love to be at the show. There is nothing better than a good energetic set to give memories, time and place to the music. Young the Giant has seemed to approach the tipping point of becoming the next big band. I hope they too, will remember this moment of youthful exuberance, and relish the opportunity, put it into the new music sharing it with the masses, because I want more.
I won’t quit. I want more.
Shake My Hand
What You Get
Empire Ants (Gorillaz cover)
God Made Man