After spending the majority of 2013 writing and recording their second studio album In Rolling Waves, New Zealand five-piece The Naked And Famous returned to Australian shores for a series of headline shows.
Coming off a successful debut performance at Coachella, and with worldwide tour dates scheduled, the hard working band delighted fans with their mix of synth pop and alternative rock tunes.
Those that had made the wise decision to arrive in time for the night’s support act were treated to the brilliant musical stylings of Brisbane based Vancouver Sleep Clinic. The adopted moniker of 17-year-old Tim Bettinson, the solo artist performing as a four-piece, serenaded fans with his dreamy, synthetic instrumentation and echoing, stunning falsetto.
The complex production combined with live instrumentalists and vocals produced a beautiful, ambient, almost cinematic sound; fans were swept away on a sublime journey with this talented youngster.
In a flurry of flashing strobe lights and frenetic energy, the night’s headliners opened immediately with ‘A Stillness’. With an almost tribal sounding opening, the song traversed between moments of heavy electronica through to strummed acoustic guitar and soaring vocals. A hazy smoke covered the dark stage as the track built to a heavy, electric guitar-fuelled climax.
Moving into ‘Hearts Like Ours’, the catchy first single from their latest album, red lasers dominated the stage and co-vocalists Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers showcased their beautiful, signature harmonies.
Powers took centre stage for the upbeat pop song, ‘Girls Like You’, after which Xayalith addressed the excitable crowd. “Let’s sing this next chorus to get us closer to together,” she coaxed. The pixie haired songstress and her four male band mates belted out ‘Rolling Waves’, the crowd singing along in unison to the anthemic track.
The Auckland locals, who now call Los Angeles home, charmed the crowd with tracks from their two acclaimed albums. Stunning lighting effects added to the intensity of the performance, giving the night a true rock n’ roll feel – in line with the band’s approach to their latest album.
The brief, gentle intro of ‘Frayed’ gave way to abrupt vocals that burst out from the darkness. The more monotone, slightly spoken style of singing on the track allowed for the heavy, distorted instrumentation and sound effects to take centre stage.
“This is pretty amazing for a weeknight,” exclaimed Xayalith, looking out appreciatively at the packed venue.
“The next song is very special to me,” she continued, introducing the third single from In Rolling Waves, ‘I Kill Giants’. The song, which takes its title from a comic book of the same name, was written about Xayalith losing her mother to breast cancer when she was young.
The heart wrenching lyrics are in stark contrast the song’s pop feel and upbeat energy. The syncopated keyboard rhythms and dramatic guitar riffs make for a superb song, enhanced even more so by the drama created when the instrumentation pulls back to let the vocals shine. The slow build and the use of pauses once the song is in full flight makes the composition particularly epic, topped off by Xayalith’s echoing vocals.
The synth sounds and heavy production, a signature aesthetic of the band, are present none more so than in the slow burning track ‘Grow Old’. The robotic effects given to Powers’ vocals give an ethereal, futuristic feel and the quiet moments are shattered by a cacophony of electric guitars and drums.
The highlight of the night, it seems for both audience and performers, was the stand out single ‘Punching In A Dream’ from the band’s debut album. Xayalith strutted around the stage with an injection of confidence, beaming as excited punters sang along to every word.
Rounding out the set with ‘Waltz’ and the more gentle sounds of ‘No Way’, the band disappeared before a short encore. “Oh, you knew we were going to come back,” joked Xayalith, as they returned to the stage.
“You guys are amazing,” enthused the band’s modest frontwoman as she introduced their final song ‘Young Blood’, “because you still love this song three years on.”
The single that catapulted the New Zealanders onto the world stage was the perfect way to bring the night to a close. The spirited electro-pop song with its “yeah, yeah” hook was the ideal singalong, the room abuzz with energy as the band left the stage.