Written by James Biagiotti
Almost exactly six years after its first show in Miami, Young the Giant returned to Miami’s Bayfront Park Amphitheater Saturday Night with something to prove.
“The first time we played Miami was 2011, on this stage,” frontman Sameer Gadhia told the crowd. “We were opening for Incubus. We loved this city. It was a big goal of ours to come back here and headline our own show.”
I was at that show six years ago, and wouldn’t have predicted that this five-piece group from Irvine, California would make it back to achieve that goal. Young the Giant has come a long way since then, however, and this seems to be a band that operates best with a chip on its shoulder.
Far from critical darlings, the group has nonetheless built a devoted following since the release of its debut record in 2010, through constant touring and a pleasantly inoffensive, if not revolutionary, trio of albums with a penchant for earworm melodies.
Solidifying Bayfront Park’s growing reputation as a destination for team-up summer concerts, Young the Giant brought along fellow alternative radio mainstays Joywave and Cold War Kids for the lone South Florida stop on the Home of the Strange tour.
After a lackluster opening set by Rochester, New York’s Joywave, who performed to a crowd that could generously be estimated at a quarter of the venue’s capacity, fans continued to trickle into Bayfront Park. When Cold War Kids took the stage around sundown, the crowd was noticeably larger but still nowhere near packed. The five-piece indie rock group from Long Beach, California has built up a small but dedicated following since forming in 2004, but on Saturday night couldn’t seem to overcome muddled sound and an overall lack of enthusiasm for its set. By the time Cold War Kids left the stage, the venue had filled up nicely despite the lack of a sellout crowd. (The fact that another alt-rock radio mainstay, Arcade Fire, was playing just eight miles away, in Coral Gables, might have contributed to the turnout.)
Before Young the Giant took the stage just after 9, the introduction over the PA left nobody questioning whether the group would shy away from any discussion of patriotism that its album ignites. The band took the stage after a faux-radio mashup of U.S.A.-themed tracks, from Green Day’s “American Idiot” and Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” to Kendrick Lamar’s inflammatory “XXX.”
The Home of the Strange tour lived up to its timely patriotic billing from the jump, the headline set beginning with album-opener “Amerika,” a track inspired by the posthumously published Franz Kafka novel of the same name.
Gadhia, clad in a yellow jumpsuit, seemed intent on showing off his dexterity as a frontman, and didn’t stop moving all night. When he wasn’t a dancing silhouette in front of the band’s large triangular screen, he was playing guitar or one of the dozen or so instruments enveloping his mic stand.
Though Gadhia stole the show and earned the rapt attention of most fans in attendance, the rest of the group performed admirably, with nary a mistake to be heard throughout the set.
One of the many musically impressive moments of the night came midway through the main set, when the band gathered together on the right side of the stage and invoked their popular “In The Open” YouTube series for acoustic versions of “Strings” and “Firelight.”
Along with many fan-favorite older tracks, the band’s set showcased many songs from its recent record, which incorporates a dash of electronic dance music into its usual indie/alternative-rock sound. “Titus Was Born” began as a slow burn that blossomed into a dynamic pop song, and encore opener “Jungle Youth” brought a bombastic beat that got the crowd even more fired up.
The show never seemed to lull, and ended on a strong note, with the crowd singing along to jubilant renditions of the band’s most recent single “Silvertongue,” as well as its first-ever single and biggest hit, “My Body.”
Young the Giant has come a long way since the first time I saw the band six years ago, and as I spoke to concertgoers on the way to the exit, longtime fans and first-time listeners alike seemed to agree: For this band, the sky is the limit.
Something to Believe In
Titus Was Born
It’s About Time
Strings (“In the Open” Version)
Firelight (“In the Open” Version)
Mind Over Matter
Home of the Strange