Southern-Californian alternative band Young the Giant’s fourth and newest release, Mirror Master, is an inversion of its predecessor, Home of the Strange. Where their third album looked outward, searching for meaningful identity in a sprawling American landscape — the band is made up almost entirely of first-generation Americans — Mirror Master flips the switch. It’s a genre-bending introspection in which the band peruses their inner world through music, mulling over existentialism, empowerment, and reminiscence.
Just as I was two years ago for Home of the Strange, I was in the audience at MTELUS last Friday night as Young the Giant toured Mirror Master. The group has managed to strike a balance between staying faithful to their roots and innovating their sound. It’s never quite a reinvention, but also not ever quite the same. This shift could be felt throughout the concert, and it struck most when lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia stepped onstage.
The group has managed to strike a balance between staying faithful to their roots and innovating their sound.
Young the Giant consistently brings high-energy and great sound to their shows. They also know how to craft a killer setlist; seven of the seventeen tracks were from the new release, a great ratio for a band that has a devoted following but who’ve also gained casual fans for big hits from their debut album. I’ll privately mourn how few songs they played from their second album Mind Over Matter, but there wasn’t a single song that felt out of place during the show.
The band kicked it off with the titular track from Mirror Master, before leading into an album single, Heat of the Summer. They dipped their toes in previous hits, like Apartment and Titus Was Born, the latter to which Comtois lent his vocals, before returning to Mirror Master fan-favourite Oblivion, a rousing piece about losing control.
They punctuated the middle half of the concert by playing a few songs “In The Open”-style, a video series they started years ago where they perform stripped-down versions of their songs in a desert-like setting. Those videos are always beautiful and unique, a real testament to the band’s spirit, and bringing a similar acoustic vibe to the live show makes for a few moments of repose in the midst of an alternative concert. But these acoustic songs are some of their most gorgeous and lilting, like Art Exhibit and Firelight.
They eased the crowd back in with mid-tempo tracks like Amerika and Panoramic Girl, then dove into anthems Cough Syrup and Mind Over Matter. I really loved their lighting setup this time around; lots of pastels, mostly reds, blues, pinks and purples. They also used strobe pretty effectively, not just to punctuate drops in the music but to visualize some of their riffs. At the beginning of Nothing’s Over, where the sound is layered with a sort of vibrating percussion, Gadhia held up a strobe light as he sang, mesmerizing the crowd.
As with any live show, a few quirky moments stuck out. With native Montrealer François Comtois on the drums, no one in the crowd was nearly as excited as his brother, who took up a residency on the left-side balcony and raved the entire time (he did this in 2016 too).
A great little detail was the song transitions. Between certain songs, the band would play the riff or opening bars of a deeper cut, which was both a total tease and somehow made up for all of the great tracks they couldn’t fit into the setlist. I have to single out bassist Payam Doostzadeh, who brings incredible depth to every single track. Bassists are valid!
Between certain songs, the band would play the riff or opening bars of a deeper cut, which was both a total tease and somehow made up for all of the great tracks they couldn’t fit into the setlist.
After the melancholic deep house of Call Me Back and twangy lead single Superposition, the band played what I’d probably say is their sole pure dance song, Tightrope. It’s super funky and a lot of fun, showcasing the talent of guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata. It also showed that Gadhia can really dance, and his enthusiasm was infectious, spreading throughout the audience in waves.
Like their last concert, Young the Giant finished the night off with My Body. That track is perhaps the most quintessential and well-known of their repertoire, and as anthemic as it is, it feels incredibly intimate when performed live, like the people who know the song are the only people in the world. It brings the crowd completely together because almost everyone at the concert knows it in its entirety, wrapping the show up on a very high note.
I noticed towards the beginning of the concert that way up behind the band, reflecting back onto the crowd, was the set centerpiece: a large mirror, referencing the album title and the meaning that it holds for Young the Giant as performers and people. For such a personal album, they shared it with incredible excitement and undeniable talent. It was hard to leave the venue without feeling totally euphoric.