New Zealand’s The Naked And Famous have come a long way since their first visit to Kansas City. Presumably. This was actually the first time that I’ve seen them, but I remember the first time they were here. They were opening for Foals at The Beaumont. Hardly anyone knew who they were at the time, and “Punching In A Dream” had barely even made a dent in the airwaves. Fast forward to last night, the band was headlining The Midland Theater, had a decent sized light show, and a few big hits to their name. But with that brought a crowd that I was not expecting. Rather than hoards of indie kids, 75% of the audience looked to be the leftovers of a Kesha concert or something. The other 25% were random middle aged men in business attire, and a few scattered bros. I felt really out of place in my Radiohead shirt. But everyone there was really well behaved and were all having a great time, so this is no complaint. Just an observation.
The first thing that needs to be said about tonight’s show, was that it could have been better held at a much smaller venue. The size of the crowd that showed up was nowhere near enough to fill the cavernous Midland. I think it would have worked better as a sold out show at The Granada. But regardless, The Naked And Famous put on one hell of a show. Their live sound is MUCH thicker and darker than the one heard on their debut album. The synths are deeper, the bass is heavier, the guitars are louder, and the energy much higher. Songs like “Punching In A Dream”, “Spank”, and “A Wolf In Geek’s Clothing” all packed a massive extra bite.
It’s kind of a known fact that the members of The Naked And Famous are huge Nine Inch Nail fans (keyboardist Aaron Short even helped work on the audio of the fan-made NIN release Another Version Of The Truth), and it shows in their live performance. Singer/guitarist Thom Powers seemed to emulate certain mannerisms of Trent Reznor at random points in the show, and bassist David Beadle couldn’t help but remind me of former With Teeth era NIN guitarist Aaron North. Sometimes when Thom Powers and second singer Alisa Xayalith were singing with each other and playing off of each other’s performances, I felt like I was watching what it would be like if Trent Reznor and his wife Mariqueen’s new band How To Destroy Angels actually were to perform shows. And knowing that that band will most likely never perform live, it felt great to imagine The Naked And Famous filling in that gap.
Opening for TNAF was the three-piece Now, Now. There’s been an inkling of a buzz going around about this band, and rightfully so. They sounded like a softer Joy Formidable at times, as well as having some influences from bands like Death Cab and older Metric, mixed with some really cool ambient interludes (for I do quite love my ambient music). I enjoyed them quite a bit. They had some technical difficulties at one point during one song, having to stop and restart. Only to have to stop and restart not just a second, not just a third, but a fourth time before just giving up altogether. I didn’t catch exactly what was happening, I think maybe an electronic backing track wasn’t being played right? But the band playfully joked their way through the situation, referring to it as the sinking of the Titanic, as well as genuinely thanking the audience for not turning against them during the entire fiasco. No problem, dudes!
All Of This
Punching In A Dream
A Wolf In Geek’s Clothing
Girls Like You
Da Da Da
By Richard Pepper
Photos by Angela Davis