Young the Giant
Greek Theatre, Berkeley
August 17, 2023
Photos by Alan Snodgrass
As a nearly sold out crowd at the Greek Theatre anxiously waited in the darkness for Young the Giant to take the stage for their headlining set, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. It had been almost exactly four years to the day since the band last played in the Bay Area (also at the Greek), and fans had been eagerly awaiting the return of their indie rock heroes.
With the stage adorned with various mirrors and other trappings meant to evoke the visual style present on their latest release, American Bollywood, a short film played on the projection screen directly behind the drum set as the band strode onto the stage to play the stately title track of the album of the same name. The song slowly built into a roaring crescendo, with frontman Sameer Gadhia’s soaring vocals holding it all it together.
Next up was the slightly more upbeat “Wake Up,” also from American Bollywood, which featured plenty of Indian musical flourishes, including a particularly interesting lead guitar section from Jacob Tilley meant to evoke sounds of a sitar.
The band began to pull more from their back catalog for the next few songs, rocking through a striking version of “Something to Believe In” from 2016’s Home of the Strange. The song alternated between a downbeat bass-heavy verse and a high-energy chorus with the rest of the band joining Gadhia on backing vocals.
Following this was one of the first big hits of the evening: one of the band’s early hit singles, “Cough Syrup.” The song began with a delicate figure-picked guitar line from Tilley, before the rest of the band came in to crank up the volume on the chorus, which had the entire venue singing along. It is easy to see why the song became such a big hit: between the loud/quite dynamics, there were plenty of memorable and melodic lead guitar lines from Eric Cannata, which perfectly complemented Gadhia’s vocal melody.
Young the Giant continued to alternate new and old material in the middle portion of the show, with Gadhia remarking on the importance of his family, particularly his father, in the evolution of his songwriting before the band performed the moving ballad “I Bite,” which turned out to be one of the emotional high points of the concert. Few singers possess such a unique and moving voice as Gadhia, who manages to convey so much emotion in just a few lines of a song.
The energy began to pick up even more towards the end of the set, right around the time the band rolled through the grooving “Heat of the Summer.” Anchored by a swinging bass/drum groove from Payam Doostzadeh and Francois Comtois, the song once again utilized a quiet/loud dynamic in the verses/choruses to perfection.
A few songs later, the band closed out the main portion of the set with the gentle ballad “Firelight.” During his introduction of the song, Gadhia remarked that it had been 4 years since the band last toured and how much the world had changed since, noting how special it was for the band to be back in the Bay Area and how many times he had been a fan at a show at the Greek Theater. He then encouraged everyone in the audience to hold up the flashlights on their phones once the song began to pick up steam. And like clockwork, when “Firelight” began to pick up steam, just about everyone in the audience held their phones up, bathing the entire theater in a white glow of light.
After a brief break, Young the Giant came back on stage for a four-song encore, ending with the fan-favorite “My Body,” the band’s big breakthrough single from their first record. The song is just pure wild energy, with a big sing-along chorus of “My body tells me no, but I won’t quitcause I want more, cause I want more” to complement a snappy groove from Comtois and plenty of wild guitar work from Tilley and Cannata.
While it may have been four long years since Young the Giant performed in front of their Bay Area fans, it certainly did not feel like that on a summertime evening in Berkeley. With such a rapturous crowd response, the fans felt exactly the same as the band: time may have passed, but Young the Giant are as good, if not better, than they have ever been as a live unit.
Milky Chance got the evening started off right with a solid fourteen-song set of high-energy indie/electronic rock. Anchored by the grooving drumming of Sebastian Schmidt, the band opened up with the rollicking “Synchronize,” which had the audience going into a wild frenzy.
The group alerted old and new material, with lead singer Clemens Rehbein sounding as good as advertised. The band threw in a surprisingly good cover of the Gloria James classic “Tainted Love” in the middle of the set, which really send the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
Towards the end of their set, Milky Chance played their hit single “Stolen Dance,” which had the nearly packed venue singing along in unison.
The band closed out their set with a particularly fiery rendition of “Sweet Sun” which saw guitarist Antonio Greger swap out his 6-stringer for a harmonica, wailing away in impressive fashion.
Young the Giant Setlist:
American Bollywood | Wake Up | Something to Believe In | Cough Syrup | The Walk Home | I Got | I Bite | Nothing’s Over | Dollar $tore | Cult of Personality | Heat of the Summer | Dancing in the Rain | Mind Over Matter | Firelight || Encore || Superposition | Tightrope | Silvertongue | My Body
Milky Chance Setlist:
| Synchronize | Ego | Cocoon | Down by the River | Golden | Living in a Haze | Better Off | Tainted Love (Gloria Jones cover) | Don’t Let Me Down | Flashed Junk Mind | Stolen Dance | Colorado | Running | Sweet Sun