THE NAKED AND FAMOUS at FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 10/18/13 Naked and Famous was in total control at the Fillmore. From the first chords of "A Stillness," every string pluck and cymbal crash had been calculated, presumably in some sort of rock laboratory. Frontwoman Alisa Xayalith appeared onstage, clad in black, and with a turn of her hand towards the crowd, she instantly broke a few hundred hearts. Despite her cooler-than-everything persona, though, Xayalith appeared genuinely surprised throughout the show that she had won the audience's affections so easily.
The Fillmore was half-full (or half-empty, depending on your level of worldview) when the show began. It was cold out and the lack of warm bodies didn't help, either. The coat check lady had a lonesome night. Orange County pop act the Colourist performed an abnormally long set for an opener, pushing the Naked and Famous's start time to just past 10 p.m. So the cavernous room and overly excited crowd made for an odd juxtaposition. All this was easily forgotten, however, when the headliners appeared and played three of their best tracks: "A Stillness," "Hearts Like Ours" and "Girls Like You."
At this point in the set, mortal bands would be finding their groove, settling in, working the crowd. But The Naked and Famous are not mortal. The energy ran high from the start, as the New Zealand quartet took elements of '80s synth pop and that Gang of Four groove that was so popular circa 2001. They parlayed this into some monster pop anthems. It was like the Pretty in Pink soundtrack vomited on a Millenial.
There's a balance here: make the music familiar without boring the fans. This, The Naked and Famous did perfectly. With a light show that would cause a kitten to convulse and big, over-the-top singalongs (Xayalith gave instructions on how to sing the chorus to "In Rolling Waves," just before performing it), the band melded anthemic pop with a tinge of weirdness. The Naked and Famous have the most unfortunate band name this side of Bang Tango, but who cares? This is not music that calls for deep introspection.
Which is not to say that Xayalith and company were aloof performers. Xayalith was positively ecstatic about the show, recalling the last time they played in Denver and telling us how she hoped we'd like the next song. Likewise, the audience was gushing with sincerity, waving hands in the air, fist pumping, and generally losing themselves in songs like "Young Blood" -- a nice mid-set pick-me-up.
By the end of the show, even the antisocialites at the back of the auditorium had moved closer to the stage. The rest of the crowd had long since given up on trying not to dance; everyone was giving in. "No Way," one of the many standout tracks from 2010's Passive Me, Aggressive You, was a fitting coda to the set, and, for those who had forgotten, showed why Xayalith was on stage and not us. "No we're never gonna talk about it," she intoned breathily, and with nary a hint of exhaustion. I swear, singers like her aren't born. They are made in a lab somewhere, deep in Middle Earth.
Personal Bias: I'd been listening to Matthew Dear at top volume heading to the show, so my hearing was pretty well shot by the time the Naked and Famous took the stage. Random Detail: What's more random: the old dude carrying a copy of The Art of Animal Drawing outside the venue, or the teenage-looking girl handing out free condoms? By the Way: We interviewed the Naked & Famous's guitarist Thom Powers this week.
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