Review: The Naked and Famous at the Music Box

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**Check out The Naked and Famous on Morning Becomes Eclectic in our archives.

From KCRW Music Blog Contributor Sanjeev Sirpal:

The Naked and Famous at the Music Box (formerly the Henry Fonda Theater) this past Monday.

The Naked and Famous are New Zealand’s latest export and the reason I can only now completely forgive them for Vege-mite. I first saw them live at Lollapalooza this year in an open field in the middle of Grant Park with 90,000 of my closest friends and they were, as expected, awesome. I don’t know what it is, but an interesting prerequisite I’ve found in bands that I’m going to really like is that they all have a female keyboardist, and The Naked and Famous is the poster band for that hypothesis.

Their melodic mesh of guitars and synthesizers wafted through the muggy Chicago air as Alisa Xayalith’s pixie-like vocals carried the crowd through one incredibly catchy song after another. To this day I can’t hear “Young Blood” or “Punching In A Dream” without then finding myself absentmindedly humming the tune or singing it to myself for days afterwards. They are like what I imagine the fairy sprites from The Legend Of Zelda would sound like if they got together and started a band.

Here are the different things I noticed when seeing them in a smaller venue like the Music Box:

This band rocks. I don’t mean in the colloquial sense of being really good (which they are). I mean The Naked and Famous play their instruments and they play them loud, ground-shakingly, entire bodies into it, guitar-bangingly, our speaker systems START at 11, loud. Even their slower songs, like “No Way“, and “The Sun” were build-ups to awesomely loud, instrumental assaults that lifted the entire crowd of their feet.

On their own, they look mild-mannered enough. Vocalist and keyboardist Alisa Xayalith looks like she would be the nicest person in your grad school business program, the one who offers to consolidate everyone’s notes into an easy Powerpoint and who would grab your favorite coffee for you just because she was already at Starbucks. The person reading a book at the bar and who spends two weekends a month volunteering to plant trees or build houses. Even in between songs, her reserved, modest asides to the audience were genuine and sweet. Those were the only times I saw her face. When the band was playing she was a whirling dervish of kinetic energy and what I thought was a unique, lilting voice at Lollapalooza I now realize is a driving vocal cannon, perfectly complemented by Thom Powers’ even, metered, soft and low tone. Their harmonies aren’t just spot on, they’re downright haunting.

Sanjeev Sirpal