by Gloria Lee
As promised in their concert last year in Webster Hall, New Zealand indie pop band The Naked and Famous returned to New York City with their performance last Thursday, April 5, at Terminal 5. With fans lining up hours before doors opened, it was clear that expectations were running high. But while openers Now, Now and Vacationer were able to pull off great performances in the acoustically limited venue, The Naked and Famous failed to deliver the usual spark and intimacy that were so prominent in their previous New York performances.
Opener Now, Now’s newly released album “Treads” has been unsurprisingly praised by fans and critics. Every track on “Treads” is solidified with emotional weight, and the ambient-rock style they choose to imbue the lyrics with is both effective and enchanting. During an interview with Now, Now (posted above), I was surprised how light-hearted and young they were compared to the gravity their songs. Casey (lead singer/ guitar), Bradley (drums) , and Jess (bass) have previously toured with other big name bands like Mates of State and Paramore, but their sense of excitement and enthusiasm was still fresh.
When put alongside the on-the-verge trio of Now, Now, the been-there-done-that bandmates of The Naked and Famous seemed out of touch. To start, their sound quality felt off. The synth and bass overpowered the otherwise beautiful vocals sung by Thom Powers and Alyssa Xayalith. Granted, Terminal 5 may not be the best venue, but I’ve still heard better in this dance hall.
The Naked and Famous decided to use strobe lights for some unknown reason in addition to the dreaded disco ball that looms over the venue. For a good portion of the show, every inch of the stage was overcome by beams of neon light. This kind of lighting would be ideal for EDM concerts or raves, but not for an indie pop band. It would have been better to listen in pitch darkness.
One of the key points that accentuate TNAF performances are the movements — Alisa’s intricate hand motions and wild jumps with Thom’s occasional hair flip work well in evoking the energy of their songs. But the spastic lights washed out everything on the stage, making it hard to see anything at all. To add insult to injury, Thom and Alyssa did not make much of an effort to connect with the audience — they gave a quick nod to the openers and offered a few “thank you’s,” but gave fans nothing else.
Overall, the show disappointed. The audience could tell by the growing stillness of the crowd, save a few overly hyped fans near the front. TNAF’s performances at Summerstage, Brooklyn Bowl, and Webster Hall last year were nowhere near as disconcerting. With this Terminal 5 show serving as the last New York show for their album “Passive Me, Aggressive You,” TNAF should’ve made more of an effort to leave on a higher note. If The Naked and Famous continue to disappoint fans in their performances like this, maybe it is best they don’t come back at all.
GLoria Lee is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.