The Naked and Famous // The Phoenix // 14.10.13
The Naked and Famous played Toronto’s The Phoenix on October 14th. Touring in support of their latest album, In Rolling Waves (2013), it was apt to open their set the same way the album begins, with “A Stillness.” They followed it with their newest single, “Hearts Like Ours.” From the get-go, the crowd was packed in close: two girls (among many others) had their elbows on stage and shared a joint, stunned by Alisa Xayalith’s pixie-cut hair, bobbing their heads to the slowed down sounds of the band’s latest work.
Though slower, the intricate vocal interplay between Xayalith and Thom Powers is still present, and it’s that quality that makes their performance (and, more generally, their music) so engaging. That engagement was most obvious, though, when the band went back to songs from their 2010 release, Passive Me, Aggressive You. “Girls Like You” got the entire Phoenix audience clapping along and infused the venue with a summer-pop vibe, as did “The Sun” and “All of This.”
Alisa paused after “All of This,” smirked at the audience and asked, “Are You Ready?”
Less than 10 seconds in, and everyone knew it was “Punching in a Dream.” During the chorus of “whoa’s,” the audience overtook Powers’ and Xayalith’s vocals, singing louder and louder until Powers relinquished the lyrics to say, to us, “beautiful.”
Beautiful, too, is In Rolling Waves, though perhaps it’s better listened to recorded than live. Much of the noise-pop of Passive Me, Aggressive You has been striped away, the quietness of “Grow Old” a good example of the band’s more sophisticated sound. Had the crowd been less chatty, less focused on the songs they know from commercials and television shows, the band’s newer stuff may have been received with more enthusiasm.
The Naked and Famous ended their set with “No Way,” Xayalith’s high, steady voice tempering the harsh, white flickering beams of light and rush of sounds. Their encore consisted of “To Move With Purpose” (2013) and–the track that everyone, including myself, had been waiting to hear–“Young Blood.” It’s the song that was played on the radio countless times during the summer of 2011, and has been looped in my iTunes probably just as often. The crowd immediately threw themselves into action, scaling the stage and diving back into the crowd. Xayalith sang through a grin, announcing, “Toronto, you’re crazy,” after the four “yeahs” that close the song. She then took the setlist from the stage, clapped a hand over her eyes, and let it float down into the hands of reaching fans.
Leah Edwards |