Selecting an opening act to accompany a major headliner on a tour is no simple task. The act must be able to keep the crowd engaged, while at the same time not overshadowing the headliner. They have to be similar to the main attraction but not the same. Most importantly, they have to be comfortable and confident next to whomever they are supporting.
Unfortunately, Syracuse natives Ra Ra Riot only partially succeeded in fulfilling these requirements when they opened for Young the Giant this past Tuesday at Montreal’s Metropolis show room. They sound similar to Young the Giant, though not nearly as exciting or engaging. Their stage presence was lackluster; the only member of the band who seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself was bassist Mathieu Santos, who coincidentally also happened to be the most interesting musically. Songs like “Water” from their latest release Need Your Light are catchy enough, but all they seem to do is build and never really climax. It was cool to watch vocalist Wes Miles and Violinist Rebecca Zeller jump onto the keyboard every now and again, but musically it didn’t really add to the overall aesthetic. Still, Montreal is an accepting place, and the crowd around me seemed to be simply enjoying the fact that there was a live band to listen to. And Zeller’s violin is extremely sparkly, so they have that going for them. I’ve been told that this band is known for their energetic live performances, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here and assume that this was an off night.
As if in response to this, Young the Giant opened their electric set with “Jungle Youth,” arguably the heaviest song on their ambitious new record Home of the Strange. Multi-talented frontman Sameer Ghadhi switched between a guitar, two synthesizers, a tambourine, and a ukulele. While he wasn’t holding an instrument, he was showing off his impressive dance moves, which included convulsing on the floor at one point. He was also wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, the most eccentric outfit worn by any of the evening’s performers. The band was flagged by different countries’ flags (ha) and they played against a backdrop of the painted mountain album art of Home of the Strange. It glittered and shone, lit up or stood pitch black, depending on the mood of the particular song they were playing. Speaking of songs, they did a great job of representing all three of their albums. Songs like “Apartment” and “I Got” from their self-titled debut were well received. Songs like “Something to Believe In” and “It’s about Time,” which are heavily layered in production tricks on the record, sound much more relatable when presented in a live setting. And of course there were the hits. The crowd exploded for “Cough Syrup” and “Mind Over Matter,” and by the time the encore came around and they began playing “My Body,” the entire Metropolis crowd was jumping vibrantly up and down.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Eric Brisson Eric Brisson Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson