New Zealand indie electronic ensemble the Naked and Famous make driving, melodic pop with an '80s post-punk influence. Centered around the talents of vocalist Alisa Xayalith and instrumentalist/vocalist Thom Powers, the band formed in 2008 and released two EPs before adding members to play live. In 2010 they released their debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You, featuring the number one single "Young Blood."
As soon as I heard they were performing here in Denver, I purchased a ticket along with 1600 other people for this sold out show.
The Naked and Famous took the stage a little after 9:45 p.m., and played an hour-long set with very little talk in between songs, except to thank the crowd for their enthusiasm. From the opening song “All of This,” the band commanded both the stage and the crowd throughout the entire performance with their high-volume blend of distorted keys and effected guitars, punctuated by high-tech lighting and visual effects. High points of the evening included performances of “Frayed,” “No Way,” “A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing” and “Girls Like You,” all of which were met with great response from the crowd. The best was saved for last; the band finished with their strongest radio hit “Young Blood” at the end of a two-song encore.
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There haven’t been many bands from New Zealand that have become big in the U.S., and many may picture music from the country as gentle and fitting with the rolling hills of “The Lord of the Rings.” Wednesday night at the Ogden Theatre, New Zealand’s Naked and Famous came to Denver on a wave of synth to defy preconceptions. There’s a lot of glam and a lot of shimmery fuzz on that island nation. With its own poppy mix of shoegaze and post-punk, the group has gained a fan base over the last few years with songs in a long list of TV shows, and it’s clear that Americans have caught on to this Kiwi electro-pop sound.
The show was one that would really come with bursts of brilliance. The band would have sudden spouts of energy then dip into long, moody interludes between choruses. In these interludes the vocals and samples from drum machines could be anywhere from completely indistinguishable to far too loud. But when everything came together, like on “Girls Like You” and “No Way” the group shows it specializes in shiny effects over simple instrumentation coupled with sing-along hooks.
The packed crowd knew every song down to the last word –– hardly even needing the lyrics that sometimes splashed on the light board. When the band really let loose into a chorus, it was obvious with the chaos from fans that they were feeling it, too. At one point Xayalith reached down to touch the hands of the audience and the adoring crowd nearly yanked her off stage.
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