There’s something to be said for the amount of courtship that goes into a successful live show. When folks onstage are present and enthusiastic, their constituents below often glom onto this energy and reciprocate it — even if the band is not their type. Faced with competition from other musicians and raucous ambiance, the unseasoned band struggles to maintain the interest of their audience like a bad date in a loud restaurant. But he who takes enjoyment in the art, be it approaching a pretty gal or conquering a karaoke night, will at the very least earn some affection in return. “Interested is interesting,” the old adage goes, and, unfortunately, the display of courtship by The Naked And Famous at SOhO last Friday evening was neither of those things.
For their part, the members of opening act White Arrows seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly, earning the ear of a small but attentive crowd of early arrivals. Sporting a remarkably similar setup to that of their Kiwi counterparts, the L.A.-based five-piece began at an alluringly frantic pace, engulfed in a dense fog (who is behind this recent rash of smoke-machine attacks?), but soon settled into an odd groove, punctuated by moments of heaviness. Guitar and keyboard tones were often very slick, but as soon as a thought seemed to develop from a song, it was abandoned for a new one, ultimately leaving White Arrows with an incoherent songbook. The discursiveness of their set was certainly difficult to keep pace with, but they may have been at their best with the heavier, more harmony-laden jams.
White Arrows soon yielded the floor, and the club swelled with a giddiness that rivaled most frat parties, with sound quality to boot. To be clear, it’s not that The Naked And Famous are a bad band: On the contrary, I have seen them do exceedingly well on much bigger stages, with far larger audiences. With that in mind, do we then chalk this one up to a technical failure? It certainly did sound as though somebody had hit the kill switch on half of their gear, reducing their normally powerful, synth-heavy sound to a pathetic beat that could hardly compete with ambient noise. As if in affirmation of this, the house lights remained on until a good four songs in, when the volume was suddenly bumped up, almost as an afterthought. But the damage had been done, especially since they had already played their definitive single, “Young Blood,” which did sound passable as co-vocalist Alisa Xayalith’s voice surged with the proper intensity that the song demands. It’s just as likely, though, that The Naked And Famous are simply exhausted. (They have been touring heavily since April, with only one album’s worth of material to explore.) That sort of monotony will surely take its toll on your musical love life, resulting in an exhaustion that even smoke machines can’t hide.