When California’s Young the Giant broke out less than a decade ago with their self-titled debut, they definitely proved to be enjoyable and interesting, but there was always a bit of a question as to where they fit. Are they indie, even though they signed to major label imprint Roadrunner? A little too alt to be pop, a little too pop to be rock. Subsequent records on Atlantic imprint Fueled by Ramen, 2014’s Mind over Mater (QRO review) and last year’s Home of the Strange (QRO review) didn’t answer things, and as enjoyable as those albums were as well, never quite came to full grip. But their live show at Central Park SummerStage (QRO venue review) on Wednesday, September 13th was completely exciting.
The night began with “Amerika” and “Something To Believe In”, the opening one-two from Strange, and they set a very strong tone from the start. Lead singer Sameer Gadhia is an impressively active and even sexy frontman, something belied on recording by his more soft and sensitive voice. The group upped their electro elements with Strange, and that translated on stage to an unexpected seventies sex-dance vibe throughout the show.
But it wasn’t all come-ons. Before playing early breakthrough single “Cough Syrup”, Gadhia dedicated it to those who caught their early NYC shows, like at the late new music festival CMJ (QRO recap of its final year) at Bowery’s still-around Pianos (QRO venue review) and but-no-more Annex (QRO venue review). It might still be their best song to those who first heard them then (QRO photos of Young the Giant early on at another new music festival, SXSW), but your first love is always your strongest, and the show effectively delivered their new material – even if early follow-up single “Your Apartment” also had the Big Apple hook, being about their own early Cali dreams of NYC.
Young the Giant also shifted into acoustic for a few songs. They’ve been doing their “In the Open” acoustic outdoor series for almost as long as they’ve been Young the Giant, and decided to bring it to their live show, with Young’s “Strings” and Mind over Matter’s “Firelight”. Such quieter moments are always tricky, particularly at big places, particularly at outdoor places, but the band – and crowd – pulled it off.
It might have been September, but the weather held up for the show, raining right before first opener Joywave went on, but staying dry & warm through them, main opener Cold War Kids (QRO photos), and Young the Giant, another, even bigger risk at an outdoor show. And whatever Young the Giant are, wherever they may slot, it was a highly enjoyable evening.