On their latest album, Home of the Strange, California rockers Young the Giant weren’t afraid to make a statement. It’s evident in the title itself, but the record and the songs on it paint a picture of America, and Sameer Gadhia and his band are our tour guides through the social and political atmosphere of this world we live in.
The messages behind a record become even more clear during a live performance, and as veterans to the translation between album and show, the band used their energy, skill and production to bring new life to their music and statements.
Coming in from the cold, the sold-out crowd packed into the theater before opening band Lewis Del Mar took the stage. Hailing from Rockaway Beach, N.Y., the duo is a unique voice emerging from a crowded alternative genre. With a hard blend of percussive instrumentation, Lewis Del Mar’s musical experiment was just as crisp and loud live as it is on record. As they played through tracks off their self-titled debut, everyone in the crowd seemed moved by their sound. It’s a rare occasion for an opener to captivate as much as Lewis Del Mar did, but they showed their rising potential and I assume we’ll be seeing them headline bigger venues soon.
Though the hunger of fans throughout had already been satisfied by the night’s appetizer, Young the Giant were ready to serve up the main course in a large, colorful and gratifying fashion. Right off the bat with the first track of the set, “Jungle Youth,” the band reinforced the night’s encompassing subject, both metaphorically and physically. The song itself speaks of power, the lust for it and the effect it has on those who seek it and live under it. It’s a perfect musing on the people and events that have swept our nation and the rest of the world. This was coupled with the visual of flags in a range of colors and patterns lined up across the stage. Taken from the cover of Home of the Strange, it was a unifying backdrop to the show, an ode to the many different people who give life to our nation.
Though the music and show provided many servings of political commentary, the variation in sound and production throughout kept everyone moving, singing and watching the band’s performance. On songs like “Something to Believe In,” the band hit full power, blasting through the speakers and giving a burst of electricity to bolster the spirit of the room. While Gadhia’s powerhouse vocals and lively stage presence captivated, he held our attention just as much on slower and quieter numbers.
Trading out the full band for a ukulele, “Art Exhibit” quieted the sound and movement of the room to focus in on Gadhia’s tender telling of lost love. Between large rock anthems and social messages, it was a beautiful interlude to give a breath of air to the set.
As the night built up and up, pleasing old and new fans alike with tracks from all three of the band’s records, the climax hit in the band's final number, the title track of not only the album but the tour we were a part of.
Gadhia introduced us to the song and to the members of the band, all of whom individually immigrated to the United States or are direct descendants of those who did. Preaching on the importance of immigration and the union of all cultures, it was hard not to reflect on our government’s most recent controversy, with the current administration condemning immigration from select countries—effectively classifying certain places as sources of fear. Without the mixture of cultures the United States is founded upon, Young the Giant would not be. And so, with this at the forefront of the audience’s mind, the band of immigrants celebrated this country we live in, this home of the strange.
“Land of the free, home of the strange,” Gadhia sang. “From shining sea to mountains grey, from amber waves of fame… I will not change.”
Riled up and full of life, the crowd demanded more. Young the Giant delivered. Returning to the stage, now donning a shimmering golden jacket, Sameer Gadhia brought his band back for three more songs to close the night. As the room danced to the set’s final moments, a sense of family and home prevailed.