The Naked and Famous @ Paradise 10.25.11
by Nick Hugon (International Affairs), published October 31st 2011
“MGMT syndrome.” It’s where a great band has a song that gets a bit overused, and it hurts the band itself. It happened to MGMT with their song, ‘Kids,” and it’s happening to The Naked and Famous with “Young Blood.”
I want to make it clear that I don’t really subscribe to the idea that a song being overplayed damages the song itself. Sure, I say “Rolling in the Deep” is overplayed, but that’s because I don’t particularly like it. I don’t complain when “1901” shows up every hour on WFNX because it’s a song I happen to love. I do believe, however, that an overplayed song can damage a band’s reputation and can very much hurt a band’s broader catalogue.
When it became evident that Andrew and Ben of MGMT actually started to dislike “Kids,” it made me pretty sad. It is a phenomenal pop song, and it’s one of my favorite tracks by the band. But when I saw MGMT live at the enormous Bank of America Pavilion in the summer of 2010, I understood why MGMT had grown tired of its own hit. Watching the perplexed, impatient faces in the audience sitting (literally) through “Siberian Breaks” and “Of Birds, Moons, and Monsters,” I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the band that had these great songs that had become completely obsolete to the vast majority of its fan base due to the massive success of “Kids.” Sure enough, when that immortal synth hook chimed in at the conclusion of the show, everyone was running, dancing, and jumping through the aisles. It was a completely different concert.
“Young Blood” was definitely an anthem for summer ’11, although it was perhaps only saved from sickening ubiquity by (the now sickeningly ubiquitous) “Pumped Up Kicks.”
The first time I saw The Naked and Famous at Brighton Music Hall this past summer, the show was phenomenal. The band sounded better than they did in studio and the audience was into every song. But this time around, something was a bit off. Granted, lead vocalist Alisa Xayalith had been suffering from a cold and a croaky voice in the days leading up to the show, but The Naked and Famous still played well. It was just a bit of a tamer audience compared to the Brighton crowd.
The Naked and Famous closed their encore predictably with “Young Blood” to riotous acclaim from the audience, and I couldn’t help myself but to think of that evening the summer before across town at the MGMT show.
What I’m saying is this: see The Naked and Famous, and see them SOON. They are a phenomenal band with an outstanding album that puts on a wonderful live performance, and they’re not going to stop getting bigger. The band’s first stop in Boston was a modest supporting slot for Foals at Paradise. They moved on to headline WFNX’s Clambake and then Brighton, the Paradise on this occasion, and I wouldn’t doubt that next time they pass through, they could headline the House of Blues. There was a time when MGMT played Great Scott and Brighton Music Hall (then Harper’s Ferry), too, and look how far they’ve come now.
The one thing that gives me hope as The Naked and Famous’ meteoric rise progresses is that I don’t think the band is going to get sick of “Young Blood” the way MGMT lost interest in “Kids.” The young New Zealanders seem much better suited for indie stardom than the reclusive duo fronting MGMT. Right before playing “Young Blood” at the end of the encore at the Paradise, co-frontman Thom Powers chuckled “I think you might know this one,” a devilish grin illuminating his face. When the synth hook started and the audience’s hands collectively flew up, Thom cast a visibly giddy look at Alisa Xayalith who responded with a smile. They still can’t get enough of their hit song, and that keeps it very fresh to me.
The Naked and Famous truly are not a one-hit wonder, but the longer you wait, the more you could be excused for thinking they are. TNAF’s set opened with their gorgeous interlude track “The Ends” and plays through the entirety of their debut Passive Me, Aggressive You putting special emphasis on “The Sun,” “Punching in a Dream,” “All of This,” “A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing” and “Girls Like You.” Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see this band supported by a truly invested audience that appreciates the entirety of the band’s small catalogue. They’re headlining New York City’s Terminal 5 in April, a venue usually frequented by names like Arctic Monkeys, Lupe Fiasco, and Mary J. Blige. So hurry up. The Naked and Famous will be selling out the Bank of America Pavilion before you know it.