Like one of their infectious pop anthems, The Naked and Famous started their Tuesday concert at the Majestic Theatre slowly and built to a magnificent peak. Anchored by driving acoustic guitar, opening track “The Stillness” added airy vocals and throbbing synths to build to a forceful climax. The band moved right into its new single “Hearts Like Ours,” a perfect vehicle for Xayalith’s penetrating voice.
From here, the band sometimes found itself losing momentum. This is the curse of touring on the strength of a few singles. You risk being defined by them, making digging deeper into your catalog a gamble.
Not that the rest of the music was bad, necessarily. Songs like “Girls Like You” and “Rolling in the Waves” capitalize on the boy/girl dichotomy and anthemic choruses that define The Naked And Famous’ sound. Surges of dark emotion and hot-blooded intensity replace the dynamic hooks and epic scale of their most popular songs.
The crowd was clearly looking for a good time, responding enthusiastically to danceable tracks such as the gloriously building “Hearts Like Ours.” More intimate songs like the nervous and intense “Frayed,” as well as the skittering synths and droning guitars of “I Kill Giants,” didn’t quite resonate with concertgoers looking for the triumphant euphoria of “Young Blood.”
Like “Young Blood,” most of The Naked and Famous’ music capitalizes on the sonic contrasts between vocalists Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith. Powers took us to dark places with brooding lyrics like “And now I’m sorry for explaining / how you fucked it up again,” while Xayalith was there to lift us from the darkness into exhilarating choruses that begged to be shouted along to.
The band stood in front of a simple set consisting of abstract shapes which diffused the stage lights into subdued washes of red and blue. The colors gave way to pulsing strobe lights as the songs reached their apex, adding to the frenetic energy. The two singers were clearly the dominant figures, standing well in front of the rest of the band. Keys, bass and percussion created fertile soundscapes of throbbing synths and subdued percussion, which Powers and Xayalith imbued with broad strokes of emotion and alternating swells of light and darkness.
The concert found new energy toward the end. The exultant second act of “All of This” picked the crowd up and led straight into hit single “Punching in a Dream.” The one guy stubbornly waving his arms in the air was joined by the rest of the crowd and Xayalith smiled elatedly as she rode the swell of excitement.
The new intensity between the band and crowd kicked off a feedback loop of excited movement and impassioned playing that brought a needed sense of momentum to the concert. The surge of vitality carried us through to the end of the main set and left us wanting more.
The band emerged for an encore after only a few minutes. Slow jam “The Mess” set an expectant tone and the yearning “To Move With Purpose” built to an explosive climax and died out in a final crash. Into the pregnant silence fell the instantly recognizable opening chord progression of “Young Blood.” Hands went up, mouths opened wide. The entirety of the sold-out crowd shouted along to the joyous ode to living young and making mistakes.
This is what The Naked and Famous do best: huge pop hooks and exultant choruses shake off the weight of the gloomy lyrics and take us to new heights, driven by Xayalith’s resonant tenor. Live, the band excels at delivering the explosive climaxes their music is founded upon.