Modern rock neophytes Young the Giant launched their second headlining tour Wednesday night with the first of two sold-out shows at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco. Sound quality at the Fillmore is top-notch—some of the best I’ve ever experienced in a live venue—and the music didn’t disappoint.
The band started off strong with “Apartment,” the first track off their self-titled debut, followed by the melodic finesse of “I Got.” Lead singer (and former Stanford student) Sameer Gadhia ‘11 opened the number with a slow, almost a cappella line of its cheerful, swooping hook before the rest of the band kicked in. During each tune of the night, Gadhia hopped back and forth between a regular mic and a vintage-looking one that amplified the reverb effect on his voice. He turned to it particularly often to elongate the winsome high notes of “Guns Out.” Gadhia’s effortlessly smooth vocals are one of Young the Giant’s greatest assets; his distinct tone sets the band apart and elevates their songs from the work of their whinier contemporaries.
The night’s high point was their second single, “Cough Syrup,” probably the best track off their record. Everyone in the venue chimed in for the song’s incessantly catchy chorus. Appropriately, a guy near me whipped out a bottle of prescription cough syrup and started chugging it nonchalantly.
Gadhia promised to play some of the new songs the band had been working on in their L.A. studio and delivered on it with “Camera,” a slow-starting tune featuring organ-like keyboard stylings.
For a first night out, everything flowed pretty smoothly. However, the one kink Young the Giant still needs to work out is the pacing of their set. The first half of the show was stacked with fun sing-alongs like “Apartment” and “Cough Syrup” but tapered off after the latter song. The second part wasn’t really a terrible lull, but was certainly a step down from a stellar start.
The set also felt rather short with its modest 14-song span. Granted, the band has only released one album, but they shouldn’t discount fan favorites from their first couple EPs like “Texas Tea.” They particularly shouldn’t do so at West Coast shows, where followers are more likely to be familiar with the band’s days as the Jakes (for the uninitiated, they’re originally from Southern California). They only delved into their Jakes catalog once with “Shake My Hand,” but regardless of fan deep-cuts, if you’re on tour in support of the only album you’ve put out so far, why not play the whole thing? To be fair, they may have been saving some stuff to keep things fresh in between their two nights at the Fillmore. It’s a small quibble, but one that will likely work itself out over the course of the tour.
The second half was not without its own merits. A rousing rendition of “God Made Man” ended the main portion of their set. The band revels in its ambient jams and did so here, slowly biding their time and building up the melody before finally cresting with the hook. They closed out the night with their most recognizable hit, “My Body.” Though a predictable move, it’s impossible to deny the song’s infectiousness, with its charging beat and power chords. Needless to say, the Fillmore’s ceilings were shaking.
Musicians tend to pick opening acts that complement the main act, and Ohio up-and-comers Walk the Moon were no exception. If opening acts are generally in the same vein as headliners, the pop-rock quartet may have come from the same blood cell (excuse the poor metaphor). Nonetheless, the openers clearly had a great time warming up the crowd with a fun, upbeat cover of Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” and the descending harmonies of the cheekily titled “I Can Lift a Car.” The highlight was “Anna Sun,” an exuberantly youthful ditty that brought their set to a satisfying end.