Young the Giant recently showed everyone at the Santa Barbara Bowl just how much they’ve grown in the three years since they took the stage here in 2014.
A quick personal anecdote before I get into my recap of the evening: A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Young the Giant perform live for the first time as the third of four acts at the SB Bowl’s 2014 KJEE Summer Roundup. Only a couple months later, I saw them again, this time as the opening act for Kings of Leon’s Mechanical Bull Tour. I remember thinking that they put on a pretty good show, and if they survive in this unpredictable industry, I’d love to see them graduate from opening act to headliner some day.
That day came, and on August 25, 2017, I found myself rocking out once again at their Home of the Strange tour, this time surrounded by thousands of fans who bought tickets with “Young the Giant” in the big, bold print. I finally saw them headline, and it was absolutely worth the wait.
But first, let me start where the night began--with New York-based Joywave. The East Coast indie rockers kicked off the beautiful, brisk evening with a brief upbeat set of popular songs including “Tongues” and “Destruction.”
It was a true coast-to-coast celebration of sound with Cold War Kids up next. The Los Angeles area-based group has released six studio albums since forming in 2004, but it took more than 10 years for them to have a song peak at #1 on the Billboard charts. Nathan Willett, Matt Maust, David Quon, Matthew Schwartz, and Joe Plummer (formerly of Modest Mouse) performed a mix of tunes going way back to their first album (2006’s Robbers & Cowards), up through this year’s release L.A. Divine. Their track list included: “All This Could Be Yours,” “Hang Me Out to Dry,” “Can We Hang On,” and the current radio hit “Love is Mystical.”
“This is a special venue. Beautiful night, beautiful venue. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” - Nathan Willett, Cold War Kids
Willett took a quick break to reminisce with the crowd about the last time he visited the Santa Barbara Bowl for a Radiohead show in 2001; the Blues-inspired band rounded out their set with a soulful cover of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain,” “So Tied Up,” and “First.” The last song of the night was “Something’s Not Right with Me,” which Willett dedicated to his mom who was in the packed house for their last night of the tour.
As the sun set, it was time for Young the Giant to take center stage; and they did so in patriotic fashion, pumping up the crowd with a rapid-fire succession of clips from such American anthems like Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” and Don McLean’s “American Pie.” From the first note of “Amerika,” the band’s lead singer Sameer Gadhia was moving his feet. He danced his way through “Something to Believe In,” “I Got,” and “Anagram” before taking a breather to talk to the crowd about the inspiration behind their latest album.
Home of the Strange, according to Gadhia, tells the story of the immigrant experience. Band members Gadhia, Jacob Tilley, Eric Cannata, Payam Doostzadeh, and Francois Comtois all come from different backgrounds but together make music as one American band. And there’s no better time to bring that story to light than right now.
They launched into “Titus was Born,” “Mr. Know-it-All,” and “It’s About Time.” The first portion of their set concluded with their huge hit “Cough Syrup” which technically came out in 2008 back when they were performing as The Jakes. (The Jakes formed just down the freeway in Irvine, California, in 2004, and it wasn’t until 2010 that they officially became known as Young the Giant.) Gadhia dedicated the performance to all the loyal fans who watched them play opener shows back in the day at local State Street venues like Velvet Jones. “It's why we are here.”
The band performed “Strings” and “Firelight” back-to-back in the style of their In the Open series, which provides alternative renditions of their songs in settings they discover along their travels on tour. The stripped-down style welcomed the audience to be a part of the intimate moment.
The back half of their set kicked it up a notch with “Nothing’s Over,” “Mind over Matter,” “Repeat,” “Apartment,” and “Home of the Strange.”
After a brief break, they returned to the stage for a four-song encore, featuring “Art Exhibit” and “Jungle Youth.” After Gadhia threw on the sparkliest jacket I have ever seen, the crowd went wild for “Silvertongue” before the band jumped into the last song of the night -- and the crowd went even wilder. “My Body” is an anthem--one of those songs that you can’t help but belt out at the top of your lungs. It makes sense: according to Gadhia, the song was born out of the act of releasing tension after a long frustrating day. I can only speak for myself, but scream-singing “My body tells me no, but I won’t quit, ‘cause I want more” at full volume with thousands of other people is nothing short of cathartic.One can only hope that Young the Giant takes their own advice and doesn’t quit. Because we all want more.
Check out all the show photos by Santa Barbara Bowl House Photographer, A Art Fisher, on our photo library.
Rachel Jefferson is a writer for a Santa Barbara-based software company and an avid concertgoer.