The Naked and Famous puts split personality on display at House of Blues

There were essentially two different versions of the Naked and Famous on display last night before a capacity crowd at House of Blues. On the one hand, you had the band that opened with the dark and brooding “A Stillness,” a sparse synthesizer-driven tune that found rail-thin, clad-in-black singer Alisa Xayalith, who came off a bit like an alternative rock Stevie Nicks, performing in near darkness and gesticulating with dramatic hand movements as she delivered the song’s lines about "a love that died." Given the fact that the New Zealand group takes its name from a song from brooding trip-hop master Tricky, it was an appropriate beginning to the 90-minute show.

On the other hand, you had the Naked and Famous that enthusiastically encouraged the audience to clap and sing-a-long as it delivered Passion Pit-like party anthems like the set closing “Young Blood,” the big hit from 2010’s Passive Me, Aggressive You. It had the crowd singing the “yeah yeah yeah” refrain in unison. With its high-pitched vocals and retro, ’80s synth sound, the song is cut from the same cloth as Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound” and is equally well-suited to energizing an audience. In the end, both versions of the Naked and Famous had their appeal, but we preferred the latter and could have used more of the up-tempo indie pop and less of the brooding, texture-driven material.

After the solemn opening number, the band did perk up some. Guitarist Thom Powers took over lead vocals on “Girls Like You” and brought a bit more energy to the table. The techno-sounding “Frayed” also benefitted from a big, boisterous beat and Powers and Xayalith harmonized well on the song. Blinding strobes and bright LED lights flickered and flashed throughout the concert, amplifying the densely constructed songs that drew from both indie rock and electronica. The group gave an engaging performance but in the end, the band probably needs to find a way to make its two halves more compatible.

Synth-pop act Gemini Club opened with a high energy 45-minute set that benefited from the fact that the group cranked the synthesizers up loud to create a deafening wall of sound while simultaneously keeping the pop-based structures of its songs intact.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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