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Review: Young the Giant get bigger, better with sold-out show at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg



Album by album, Young the Giant are getting there.

And where is “there,” exactly? Well, you name it. The alt-rock group has been compared to everyone from Incubus to the Smiths to Radiohead — and that was before their second album, January’s Mind Over Matter, expanded and enlivened the swoony sonic terrain they call home.

Those are some ridiculous comps, of course. But as the assured Southern California rockers melted the hearts of a sold-out crowd at Jannus Live on Tuesday, it was hard to find fault with a single note of their performance. At this stage in their young career, Young the Giant are as confident and musically capable as you’d hope a next big thing would be, and in concert, you can sense them building upon their lofty promise.

Frenetically wagging a tambourine against his thigh, soulful singer Sameer Gadhia crooned with pure control all night, energizing the crowd with his every movement while singing the sort of songs Radiohead might write if Radiohead felt remotely compelled to write pop songs.

But for all Gadhia brings to the table, enough can’t be said about the guitar work of Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata. On Young the Giant’s albums, their guitars are front and center; in concert, they recede and meld into a single gorgeous soundscape. So seamless was their playing that I found myself straining to differentiate each man’s chords; curiously, hanging on the band’s every note in this way only heightened the drama of each song.

Though they did rock out on occasion – the riffs of It’s About Time hurtled through the amps like a tornado – Tilley and Cannata frequently delivered muted, dreamy, perfectly balanced beds upon which Gadhia could let his voice float: The jazzy swoon of Apartment, the spidery lullaby of Firelight, the gentle rumble of smash hit Cough Syrup.

At Jannus Live, some of Mind Over Matter’s best songs, including Waves and Paralysis, were linked by a synthetic, Phoenix-like pulse that overshadowed the guitars; while Eros, true to its name, bubbled with lusty heat until evolving into a funky Miami Sound Machine/New Power Generation outro.

Young the Giant play with more than enough confident precision to pull this off, just as they do when they dip into floral, almost tropical territory on Strings and I Got; and just as they do when they decide to go supernova with hands-in-the air arena rockers like Crystallized and Mind Over Matter’s title track, which dripped with notes of the Cure and Psychedelic Furs. It’s music you can fall in love to, and thus fall in love with, and all those kids in the pit, who screamed when Gadhia dove into the front row to sing My Body? They believe. You can see it.

But it's not just the kids. Midway through the show, a middle-aged guy next to me saw me taking notes and asked: Do you think we could be looking at the next U2?

Well, yeah, the thought does briefly cross your mind, even if you know it’s ridiculous. Young the Giant is clearly no U2; they’re not particularly close.

But album by album, maybe they’re getting there.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1:36am]


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