But on this evening, an indignant funk hung in the air amidst grumbles and sighs. It quickly became apparent that everyone was frustrated with the Pageant's red tape and nit-pickery in regards to the implementation of entrance/exit procedures (I got patted down twice), location-based drink rules and strict start/curfew times.
What can be said? Indeed, there are minors and large crowds to deal with -- state rules and regulations abound (I get it), but there comes a point when too much exercised control and imposition make the Pageant feel like a police state. Who wants to live (much less witness a show) in such a place, even one with perfect sight lines and acoustics?
Bitching aside, openers, Grouplove, certainly brought the love. With their signature brand of psychedelic, love-laced indie tunes, Grouplove had the Pageant dancing and shimmying. The California group shot through "Colours" and "Tongue Tied" with surprising radio fidelity. They impressed the audience and sparked proper excitement about their upcoming headlining tour.
Young the Giant appeared on stage and exploded into the sun-sleepy "I Got," from the band's 2011 self-titled debut. Lead singer and egregious tambourine over-user, Sameer Gadhia, unleashed a soaring sustained note toward the end of the third chorus. "Guns Out" featured mashed-up, distorted guitar from guitarist Jacob Tilley. Drummer François Comtois' snare clicks were crisp and clear.
"Shake My Hand" was a tune from when Young the Giant used to be referred to as the Jakes. The audience happily ate up the throwback, snare-drum-led, indie rambler. Bassist Payam Doostzadeh thumped along with ebullient power as second guitarist Eric Cannata chugged out distortion that harkened back to Modest Mouse's work on "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank."
This is what Young the Giant does so well. They inhabit a comfortable generic space where they can mimic the sounds of other acts. While this speaks to the band's extreme talent and versatility, it also betrays a slight lack of focus, a certain vanilla aspect, that while well-produced and well-played, can at times feel devoid of fizzy freshness.
"What You Get," a new song, opened with long, sustained vocals and a hectic guitar soundscape. Gadhia's vocals cut through the aural violence and cleanly flowed over the dialed-back verses. The song mused on love and death as striped, cardboard boxes positioned around the stage glowed a myriad of changing colors. Toward the end of the tune, Gadhia started singing in a deep drawl, effectively conjuring the National, before the band snapped back into the chorus' shimmering jangle.
The guitar slide on "Every Little Thing," a B-side from Young the Giant's debut, sounded like Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." Young the Giant veered away from Mr. Reed during the chorus, at which point Gadhia testified, "I want a fuck and a fight" between band-wide "Oh, oh ohs."
The single "Cough Syrup" was grandiose and impressive. The striped boxes glowed red as Gadhia cracked a tambourine over his knee. Comtois' floor tom work during the verses rumbled through the venue. Before the chorus, the song ramped up dynamically to attain a certain U2-esque grandeur.
Young the Giant burned through the later half of their set with "Strings," which offered up a My Morning Jacket vibe, with its "Aye-ya-ya-ya" choral vocals and tremolo-slick, twinkling guitar plunking. Gadhia lugged his tambourine over to a piano for "Camera" and played keys with one hand, rocked the tambourine with the other and sang a dark melody, carving out vocal peaks and valleys with gusto. The energy slackened a bit here, but Young the Giant regained their stride with "St. Walker," which produced delightful vocal accents, a huge instrumental crescendo and synthesizer hum.
Young the Giant left the stage as a wall of sound snaked from their feedback and their effects-laden instruments. The band promptly returned for a three-song encore. "My Apartment" stood well timed with vocal ramping and intrigue. Gadhia paused post-song to take "A big fucking picture" of all of us prostrating like hungry acolytes before the band. "Islands" was full of rim-shots and organ-delicate harmonies. When the drums and bass finally dropped, the venue fell in on itself with dancing and hysterics. Young the Giant closed with the mega-hit "My Body," which brought even more excitement with venue-wide singing.
Soon, the houselights flashed on and Young the Giant disappeared. I was left to stand in line upstairs at the Pageant, forced into finishing my beer before descending to the main level. I couldn't help but listen to the bearded drunkards go on about how oppressively controlling the Pageant has become. "Ah, the good old days," they mused. "Where have they gone?"