For the first time in two years, the synthpop Kiwis The Naked And Famous returned to the UK for a run of shows including two sold out dates at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. Unfortunately, the second of these shows was cancelled due to singer/guitarist Thom Powers falling ill, which had also caused the cancellation of the Birmingham and Norwich shows earlier in the tour. Those that were lucky enough to see them were in for a real treat.
The first thing that most people do when they walk into a venue for a gig is go and put their jacket in the cloakroom, or get a pint from the bar, but when walking into the venue for The Naked And Famous’ show, the first thing most people seemed to do was gaze upon the structure that adorned the stage. Six curved metal pillars were on the stage, covered in lights, while a large, glowing ‘&’ symbol sat in the middle. Little did we know, that ‘&’ symbol belonged to the support act, Sons & Lovers.
While it might seem a bit confusing to have Sons & Loves and The Naked And Famous on the same bill, it was clear why they had been selected to open the shows on this tour. Their blend of keyboards and guitars with building verses and epic choruses was perfectly balanced, giving life and new hope to a genre that has produced so many underwhelming bands in recent years. These guys have so much potential, and while their studio recordings are still good, you’ll be doing yourself a favour by going to see them live.
The Naked And Famous were met with a roar of applause as they made their way onto the unlit stage, giving the crowd one last moment of darkness before the impressive light show that was to follow. The band opened with ‘A Stillness’, the first track from their recent second album In Rolling Waves, and the live performance brought a new energy and passion to the track that just can’t be captured in a recording. As everyone had hoped, this was a sign of things to come.
The band tore through their setlist, featuring new favourites such as ‘Hearts Like Ours’ and ‘I Kill Giants’, and old classics including ‘Girls Like You’, with each track accompanied by spotlights and strobes that really drove the performance home. The crowd sang along and threw their hands in the air for their favourite songs, and when singer Alisa Xayalith asked the audience to help out with the chorus of ‘Rolling Waves’, she was visibly taken aback, laughing and saying “I didn’t expect you to sing so loud”.
However, it seemed that despite already having to cancel two dates of the tour, their bad luck wasn’t over yet. When Xayalith announced that there was an issue with her keyboard and that they would return in five minutes, the crowd were left to talk awkwardly amongst themselves while the technicians saw to the problem. Obviously things such as this can’t be helped, but these interruptions can easily catch a band off guard and ruin their flow.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before The Naked And Famous were back on stage and managed to get the crowd amped up again in no time at all, and from there on, it was plain sailing. Towards the end of the set, Xayalith dedicated the crowd favourite ‘Punching In A Dream’ to “all you guys and girls that play FIFA”, a nod towards the song’s appearance in the soundtrack to the popular football videogame.
The band ended the night on the Mount Everest of high points with the anthemic ‘Young Blood’ from their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You, with Alisa introducing it by saying “Let’s blow the roof off with this one” and the crowd happily assisting.
Although many fans are still getting to grips with the new album, seeing it performed live breathed new life into the tracks and confirmed their brilliance to those who had any doubts. We hope Thom recovers soon, and with any luck, The Naked And Famous will be back again before too long!