Back in December we picked The Naked and Famous as one of the top-5 best new acts of 2010, after the release of their head-turning debut album ‘Passive Me Aggressive You’. Not only that but they also were on our list for the best songs of 2010, with their raucous single “Young Blood”. So while they have been on our radar for some time, it’s taken a while to get the chance to take them in live. But many people are in that boat, as they are from New Zealand, and their songs crossed the Pacific with much more ease than they could.
This last weekend The Naked and Famous graced one of Chicago’s preeminent stages, The Metro, which is quite a feat considering it’s their first live show in this city outside of their Lollapalooza performance. That Lolla show, while being a jolly time, was not the ideal setting to take them in – as their set was one of the firsts, on the first day of the fest. Every band has to cut their teeth, these guys just seem to be doing it faster.The Naked and the Famous- Punching in a dream by davefranklin
All 5 musicians took the stage to the great delight of the clearly sold out crowd. Alisa Xayalith, their captivating lead singer (although she is by no means the only voice they use) went directly front and center and you could tell the majority of the crowd’s attention was going to be placed on her for much of the show. Using only their album image as background, a large pink/purple psychedelic setting sun of sorts, they employed a couple arrays of moving lights for their visuals. It wasn’t minimal, but it was something close to it. One can only assume the visuals will ramp up as their careers do.
The band jumped right into “Punching in a Dream”, which the crowd was more than happy to kick the evening off with. With the driving backbone of a beat, the frolicking synth lines, the gritty guitar and bass moving in and out, all while Alisa’s powerful & sugary vocals leads the way – it’s a good little snapshot of the sonic tactics this band likes to employ. “Girls Like You” was another number in which this musical approach was emphasized to the crowd’s pleasure, as well as the obvious-encore crowd-rioter of “Young Blood”.
But this band doesn’t just rely on playing crowd-pleasing toe-tappers, either on their album or in their show. For “The Sun” we found that the band could establish a subtle beat, and let it play out, building only ever so slowly over the minutes as the vocals (which are at times harmonized and at times not) slowly inflate with an increasingly complex presence as the guitars also enter with finesse to give the sound some weight. The song builds to high energy, but never topples over the edge into a beat, which confuses the brain but delights the ears. And then there was “A Wolf in Girl’s Clothing”, when the band decided to show their teeth and unleashed some gritty hardcore rock, letting the guitars rejoice in some feedback and the drummer to get his day’s workout in. Dynamism is definitely one of this band’s best attributes, live as well as on their records.
After taking in many songs it became clear that while all of the musicians are talented and completely in-sync, the band’s live show rests a lot on the shoulders of the drummer and the lead vocalist (she also plays keys). The drummer was equipped with a full drum set, but then also had a couple extra snares which were triggered to a drum machine. This allowed for the drummer to be the creator of both the organic drums sounds as well as the electronic ones, so while the beat may be decidedly electro, the timing has the imperceptible “humaness” to it. And therein lies one of this band’s best overall attributes, the way they so cleverly and easily walk the line between a traditional rock band, and an electronic group. This, for obvious reasons, comes through much more when one see’s them live than when listening to their recorded material. It is also a reason why this band should be pleasing crowds for some time to come, as few bands can simultaneously please the electro fan and the indie rock fan in such a, seemingly, effortless manner.
By Sean Brna