NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The crowd's reaction to Young the Giant's emergence on the stage was the first indicator of the disconnect that came to define the group's entire sold-out performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium Tuesday night.
The night started off nicely enough, with opener Vance Joy performing with his Australian accent-tinged singer-songwriter style and comedic anecdotes. In short, Joy was everything an opener should be. Then YTG took the stage.
The usually-seated Ryman crowd split into seated and standing and never came to a consensus on which position the type of show requested of the group. Fans weren't sure whether to yell, bob their heads in cool acknowledgement or adopt frontman Sameer Gadhia's unabashedly weird dance moves.
To be fair to the crowd, YTG's Jan. 21 release "Mind Over Matter" is a little confusing. It is more connected and cinematic than the group's debut eponymous album, but it lacks the fun, easily consumable indie rock that led YTG to success. The band's Nashville audience consisted mostly of high school and college-aged hipsters, who seemed unable to really immerse themselves in what YTG was trying to create.
And it was an immersive show, with dizzying lighting and illusion-based backgrounds as the backdrop for Gadhia's atmospheric wails. He sang from two different mics, both seemingly designed to disguise his lyrics in a muddle of indistinguishable sound. This was intentional, according to Gadhia, who said on stage that they were aiming to add a "dreamlike quality to the show."
Around five songs in (mostly from "Mind Over Matter"), however, a member of the crowd shouted, "Play your last album!" People around him cheered in agreement.
Gadhia later obliged with crowd favorite "Cough Syrup," which arguably is YTG's most successful commercial hit and has been covered on shows like "The Voice" and "Glee."
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gadhia told Kenny Herzog that the album was centered around the idea of "paralysis." For better or for worse, this idea of paralysis seemed to affect the audience, who often stood still, looking dazed while YTG continued its lotus of a performance.
The relatively short one-hour set concluded with a three-song encore that finally gave the audience what they wanted, a jumping, excited indie rock show featuring hit songs "The Apartment" and "My Body."
The encore greatly improved what was not an unenjoyable show, but definitely one that needed to be better targeted toward the demographic. Gadhia's vocals, reminiscent of Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and Death Cab's Ben Gibbard, were excellent, but they were hidden by the microphone settings. The band as a whole is exceedingly talented, but its live show tries a little too hard to be a live show.Loosen up, Young the Giant. Don't take yourselves so seriously – you're indie rock's darlings for a reason.