Young The Giant
The Observatory (formerly the Galaxy Theatre)
Last Friday night's gig at the Observatory in Santa Ana was a victory lap of sorts for Young The Giant. A successful 2011 saw the Irvine-based quintet tour across the globe (including many of the country's huge festivals), performing at the MTV Video Music Awards, a set at MTV Unplugged, and, oh yeah, had two huge alt-rock singles (not Maroon 5 big, but enough to build from). If that wasn't enough in an already jam-packed year, earlier this week, the band was the musical guest on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Not bad for a couple of local dudes.
With the first of two sold out gigs billed as Hometown Holiday Shows, which are benefits for the Irvine Public School Foundation's efforts to keep music in Irvine public schools, the band gave fans everything they could ask for and then some. These final shows of 2011 serve as a thank you to the fans who have supported them since their days as The Jakes. (Writer's note: That name was used until 2009, so that's giving diehards a lot of leeway considering the core of the band formed in 2004).
As fans packed the venue--which felt uber-small considering the band's stature now, you could feel that the night had extra meaning to everyone involved. The band's 75-minute set moved briskly, with nary a dull moment nor a moment of rest. Throughout the night, singer Sameer Gadhia had fans eating out of the palm of his hand, reacting to every move or dance move he made. The crowd, which was split 60/40 female to male, was into the show from the jump, which was an impressive showing considering the band's limited discography.
Songs like "Cough Syrup" and "Guns Out" had fans dancing and singing (almost to the point of screaming) along with the band. Of course, since the majority of the people in attendance were between 18 and 25, there was the healthy use of cell phone cameras. However, the band wasn't distracted by the sea of this sea of technology, in fact, they fed off the raucous crowd's energy. Even during the encore when the band covered The Gorillaz's "Empire Ants" (which will be seen on their MTV Unplugged performance) with a string section, they were able to win over a crowd that probably wasn't familiar with the song. The addition of the strings filled out well to the point to where it made you wonder if the band would use them on future songs.
Naturally, popular tunes "Islands" and "My Body" closed out the set to the crowd's approval. The screams of approval and jumping along to the tunes had the band smiling, almost as if they realized how far they've come since they first started as teenagers at Irvine High School.
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Although these are the band's last shows of the year, they've got their sights set on their upcoming two-month tour, which is begins in February at some of the biggest venues the band has headlined to date. Gadhia informed everyone in attendance the band recently added a second night at The Wiltern in Los Angeles and promised that the outfit will be playing new material on the next tour, which one can logically assume that a second album is already in the works. If last night is an indicator of what's to come, fans of Young The Giant have a lot to look forward to in 2012.
Critical Bias: The band was riding the momentum of a strong 2011, but I'm curious to hear how they're able to build off their success
The Crowd: Facebook generation, aka 18-25 year-olds, made up 90 percent of those in attendance and to their credit, were very into the music
Random Notebook Dump: I love venues that don't charge for parking.