The Naked and Famous
Outland on Liberty, Columbus, April 27
by Jennifer Farmer

Slogging through a damp, rain-filled evening to get to a show is a nuisance, but bad weather and tardy springs are par for the course in the Midwest. It was wishful thinking, of course, to hope that perhaps the Naked and Famous could bring some of their sunny New Zealand skies with them when they stopped in Columbus last week on their way through opening for English rock band Foals. As evidenced by the seemingly perpetual downpour for the past week, though, nice weather was a pipedream. Yet, despite a dubious name (for they are neither naked nor famous), the band charged through a concise, eight-song set lively enough to brighten the mood, weather be damned.

With only one record under their belt, last September’s Passive Me, Aggressive, You, they didn’t have quite the repertoire as Foals, but with ample promotion from local radio stations, they attracted a surprisingly sizable and raucous crowd, especially for a pre-8:00 pm start time. I suspect that had something to do with the fact that the collective age at this point could not have been more than 16. When I’m at a show where I feel a bit out of place (read: old), and slightly unfamiliar with the music (read: don’t know every lyric by heart), I tend to rely on others, namely the front row devotees, to help me decipher the minutiae. In this case, it was a front row packed with shrieking underage fashionistas. Did I forget to mention the guitarist’s dirty blond hair or the drummer’s tight jeans or the dreamy Kiwi accents? Perhaps the hysterics weren’t exactly musically merited.

Regardless, the band opened with a spot-on rendition of “All of This,” though I can’t truly say that for certain because they started their set even earlier than expected and were already halfway through the song as I made my way in. From a distance, however, the song might as well have been playing through speakers from the radio. Though the Naked and Famous sound relatively generic recorded, it’s clear from their live set that they borrow nuances from a whole mess of ’70s and ’80s genres, from disco to electronic to mall-pop. As they worked their way through the set list, perhaps shocked by the large fanbase, the band didn’t mince words nor dawdle with small talk. They opted instead for a few nods of gratitude before diving into the next dual synth–driven tracks, including a delightfully hazy take on “Girls Like You.” That’s not to say the band wasn’t energetic—far from it, in fact—as lead singer Alisa Xayalith danced and flailed endearingly throughout, replete with passion and hand gestures to rival Mariah.

By the time the Naked and Famous closed with the Passion Pit dupe, “Youngblood,” the crowd was beside itself with delight. It was still rainy and gloomy outside, but walking out the doors after the set was finished, they didn’t even use their umbrellas.