It’s rare that I like songs just because a certain band plays them; I can easily appreciate a song if it moves me, no matter who plays or sings it, and I usually don’t assume that all of the songs on a band’s album are phenomenal just because I love the band. However, there are some bands out there who consistently release outstanding music, and you come to expect excellence with every release. For me, Young the Giant is that kind of band. Their eponymous debut is probably one of my all-time favorite albums; I could listen to every song on it a thousand times (which has probably already happened). They are also excellent performers; I saw them live in 2011, and it was fantastic. I was beside myself when I found that YTG was putting out a new album, Mind Over Matter, this year….it had been so long! Would their second live up to the glory of their first? Or would they fall victim to the dreaded “sophomore slump” with this new offering? The first single off of Mind Over Matter, “It’s About Time,” was an all-out rocker, and the second, “Crystallized,” showcases lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia’s silky-smooth voice. I was pumped. The rest of the album came out on January 21st, and it didn’t disappoint. My faves from the album are, hands down, “Crystallized” and “Mind Over Matter,” followed closely by “Paralysis,” “Eros,” and “In My Home.” Looking back at this list of favorites, I realize that I have named about half of the album. You get the point.
It should come as no surprise that when I found out that they were coming to Music City and playing at The Ryman Auditorium, I bought tickets the minute they were available. After the Alt-J show I attended at the Ryman last fall, I swore I would never find myself sitting on the main floor under the balcony ever again. NEVER AGAIN. Imagine my disappointment when the “best” tickets available were under that cursed balcony. Fortunately, the seats were closer than the Alt-J ones, and there wasn’t anything that was going to keep me from this show.
Showtime…seats were okay, still not as close as I wished, but there were no human icebergs around me, which was a relief. However, there was a silver fox and his hot date sitting right in front of us; this time, I experimented and made friends with them, thinking that if we were friends, they would care if they blocked my view…and it worked!
First up, Vance Joy and his band from Melbourne, Australia. I wasn’t at all familiar with this tall drink of water and his mop of curly brown hair, but when he started talking, I couldn’t help but listen…that accent….SWOON. His tenor is high and lonely, his demeanor is unassuming, his songs are sweet and clever stories that he tenderly delivers to the audience. He sang “Baby don’t you know/I love your snaggletooth” in the melodic “Snaggletooth,” a song about a girl who seemingly parts the heavens when she sings, clever because not only does the girl have a snaggletooth, she is like a tooth that goes in a different direction from all the other teeth or a tooth that doesn’t quite fit…my interpretation, of course, feel free to disagree. When introducing new song “Red Eye,” a song about an early flight, he dryly told a story about how long the trip is to America, and that he and the band had been, for the last six months, in a large wooden cargo crate aboard a steam ship, since that was the most cost effective way for them to travel; that in fact, they started the trip with one additional band member who had fallen victim to cannibalism because the trip was so long. If you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed it. As the set came to a close, Vance Joy straps on a mandolin for foot-stomper “Riptide,” his most popular song at the moment, as the crowd sang along. What a joy. A Vance Joy. (hee hee)
After a what seemed like an eternity, the 10-12 huge old-school hollywood set lights that decorated the stage went out as the instrumental “Slow Dive” began its organ-y crescendo; then the lights raised, and Young The Giant broke into “Anagram.” Lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia rocked a tambourine as he bathed us in his buttery voice and moved his electric hips across the stage…SWOON SWOON SWOON. Much to my delight, YTG played most of my favorites from their first album, “I Got,” “Guns Out,” and “12 Fingers.” As they played the pulsating and drum-driven “Teachers,” Sameer danced, thrashed, and did back bends as he sang “and I know it’s hard to be sane/Temptation is so friendly/I need this release now/I find I can’t stop dreaming.” The lights dimmed, and Sameer introduced the song “Firelight,” a song about not having control over something, saying “sometimes the most relaxing thing is to realize you actually don’t have control.” Rewinding back to the eon of time between sets…the silver fox and I had a conversation about what our favorite YTG songs were; one of his just happened to be “Firelight,” he told me as his eyes twinkled. So as “Firelight” began, the silver fox turned around and said “get ready, I might pass out.” I figured he was joking, but you never know.
I was enjoying myself for the most part, but let’s take a moment to discuss how this crowd was responding….mind you, the first time I saw YTG was at The Fillmore in Charlotte, NC, which has a maximum capacity of 2000 people, about the same size as The Ryman. I was close to the front; the crowd, which packed the venue and stood arm to arm, was alive in Charlotte and YTG reciprocated onstage, it was spectacular. The crowd at The Ryman, not so alive, stood quite still; at one point I even noticed several people stepped into the aisles and took ‘selfies’ with their backs to the band. Really?? There were loud and obnoxious never-ending conversations going on behind me the entire time. It seemed like YTG didn’t have as much fun either this go ’round either, especially with little energy coming from the audience. Come on people.
BUT THEN…the “Cough Syrup” guitar riff began, the crowd acted like they were breathing (finally), and sang along. After the next song, the groovy “Crystallized,” my most favorite from the new album, the band said their ‘thank you Nashville’ spiel and left the stage. Time for the obligatory encore, which drives me crazy. Just go ahead play all the songs you’re going to play. Please. The crowd, still breathing, started stomping and clapping and banging on the pews (for the uninitiated, the seats The Ryman are church pews), and the silver fox and I started taking bets on what the last songs would be. What would they play??? The suspense, oh my goodness. I guessed that YTG would play “Apartment,” “Mind Over Matter,” which is the name of the album, so of course they had to play that one, and based upon my previous YTG concert experience, I figured they would play “My Body” to end the show. I guessed all three correctly! And finally! The crowd went nuts as the band rocked out and Sameer sang “My body tells me no/But I won’t quit/’Cause I want more,” what a perfect song to end the show. I encourage you to go see them when they play your neck of the woods. Sorry about the mostly inanimate crowd here YTG, you were such good sports. It makes me love you even more.