Concert Reviews

The Naked and Famous with XYLO and The Chain Gang of 1974 at the Danforth Music Hall

Photographs by Daniela Tantalo.

One thing that always frustrates me about concerts is that it never feels like the sound is properly calibrated for the opening bands. The main band will sound fantastic, and yet for the opening band, the singer is incomprehensible, the drums are unevenly mixed, and the guitar is always too loud. On this evening, however I was pleasantly surprised: I could understand every word Paige Duddy of XYLØ belted out, and the band as a whole sounded extremely cohesive. Started in Los Angeles by Paige and her brother Chase, XYLØ doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to topics. Of particular – and unfortunate – relevance was their closing song, Fool’s Paradise, which takes a critical position against Donald Trump, with lines like “Turn off the TV, your suit and tie and hair all wrong/I had a bad dream, your face was on a dollar bill” and “Lift me up over the wall”. Though at times I almost wished I couldn’t hear every word (Paige, there is a limit of one, MAYBE two times you can ask the crowd how they’re feeling), I thoroughly enjoyed their brand of dark pop.

XYLØ and The Naked and Famous are a great pair to be touring together, because they have a lot in common: both have a female lead singer, both have a distinctive synth-pop sound, and both were started by two people and grew from there. I always find it really interesting to see how bands that have touring members – or just members that aren’t featured front and center – operate. For example, XYLØ’s touring guitarist very nearly stole the show. While all eyes were clearly meant to be following Paige, he poured his heart into his parts, and it was really fun to watch.

The Naked and Famous took a different approach: while the rest of the band laid down the rhythm behind them, Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers, lead singer and guitarist respectively, tore it up out front. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Some people want to be performers, some people just want to be musicians. And together, as a band, it was an awesome show. The lighting game was on point, the acoustics were stupendous (as they always are at Danforth), and the music was a perfect Tuesday evening jam. A personal favourite was No Way, which sprawled into an endless and immense jam that you never wanted to end.

I know very little about fashion, but I would be remiss not to mention their power attire: Alisa rocked a wonderful white pantsuit jacket (a bittersweet symbol, considering it was election night south of the border) with a black jumpsuit underneath, while Powers wore the opposite: a handsome black blazer and white tee. However, while their clothing was contrasting, their presence was not. Though normally I think it’s a dumb word that never applies, I feel it is necessary here: That Thom guy has swagger. Powers is a tough name to live up to, and he is doing it splendidly. Meanwhile, Alisa’s does a fantastic job of connecting with the audience. My personal favourite was when she looked into the front rows of the audience, then said, “Oh, you got a tattoo of me! I’m so glad it makes you happy!” Her voice is a magical experience, and her infectious excitement and piercing gaze are hard to pull your eyes away from.