Young the Giant - Pacific Amphitheater - 7/22/12

Young the Giant - Pacific Amphitheater - 7/22/12

Young the Giant
Pacific Amphitheater

Few things cap a bravura-laden tour performance like a massive audience photo taken by a headlining band from the stage. The collective frenzy of fans posing with hands up, mouths open and sweat dripping looks tantamount to a religious revival, in some cases it's a lot more spiritual. It's a common ritual that Irvine-bred band Young the Giant--featured in this week's cover story--took full advantage of on nearly every stop on their recent U.S. tour (including a recent set in Dover, DE. at the Firefly Music Festival). But even as the band stood breathless before 13,000 OC Fair fans who erupted wildly for a split second photo flash, the scene at this triumphant hometown show transcended a revival. This was a coronation.

For the local music fan who might never spend money on a ticket to see Adam Lambert of Three Dog Night, the sole reason for the Pacific Amphitheater's existence is to welcome the return of bands who've gone out into the record industry wilderness and come back rockstars. And if you can pack that sucker, then by god, you've made it. Not only did Young the Giant manage to fill every seat in the brisk night air the OC Fair venue, but they knew exactly how to handle them last night. Reaching the end of their summer tour, the were as confident as if were playing just a few miles away at their old Detroit Bar stomping grounds.

Caught up in a swirl of strobes and hazy, purple fog, the five-piece outfit sauntered on stage and took a brief minute to absorb the scene before them before launching into cuts from their eponymous debut (which by now seems like a lifetime ago for the band who've toured on it nonstop since it came out in 2011). Led by the lofty crooning of vocalist Sameer Gadhia, the band began their set with the spry snare drum rhythm of "I Got," that immediately set the tone of an emotive, mostly recognizable set with the added bonus of big budget production value the band would've never gotten a couple years ago. 

Joey Winter of the Steelwells
Joey Winter of the Steelwells

Young the Giant followed an opening performance from the Steelwells, whose status as the Fullerton darlings of the OC Music Awards was upped slightly by some newfound muscular percussion and the mid-tempo, indie pop sensibility of their set. Though they lack some of the unabashed performance chops of the headliner, watching both bands perform together felt like a flashback to some packed House of Blues show circa 2009 where both bands, along with Local Natives and the Union Line would gather sold out crowds on a much smaller scale. 

Barrages of flashing lights that rained on the crowd as the band unfurled newly crafted jams in between songs like "Guns Out" and "Shake My Hand" an older tune from their days as the Jakes before signing to Roadrunner Records a few years ago.

Probably the most impressive aspect of the band's show, other than hearing fans as far back as the lawn seats sing the words to tracks like "12 Fingers" and their radio hit "Cough Syrup," were the spaces where the band introduced some of their newer material. Gadhia, along with drummer Fancois Comtois, bassist Payam Doostzadeh and guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata seemed especially sure of their new jam "Teachers" which, in addition to introducing synth tones and vocal pedal effects into their sound, is probably the fastest song we've ever heard them play. Twisting, jumping and writhing around on stage, Cannata and Gadhia were more than eager to show the crowd a glimpse of where the band is heading. They also shared a much calmer, organ-driven hymn called "Cameras" that conversely is the slowest we've heard them go since "Islands," which they performed in their encore along with "My Body," the song that landed their main career highlight at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. 

Though it seemed like a split second while it was happening, that cable TV performance last year was likely the last major 'atta boy moment most local fans of the band can remember. And in a lot of ways, ending their set on that tune was a chance for people who didn't have a ticket to the award show to feel part of that experience. It was also a chance to watch the band move on to what could very well be another exciting chapter in their history with the release of their sophomore album next year. And if nothing else, it was a chance to see a band who routinely outgrows every stage OC has thrown at them scratch another one off their list. 

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