March 22, 2006
By Stephanie Shim
is no wonder that Death Cab for Cutie's front man Ben Gibbard gave them his
approving nudge as Youth Group shares the irresistible combination of angst-ridden
lyrics, pop melodies with rock sensibilities, and complex instrumentation.
The Australian band's flowing sounds have made for some very appropriate background
music in several of today's teenage dramas including The O.C., One Tree Hill,
and Laguna Beach, all of which have played major roles in the success of many
formerly obscure indie bands. They are led by singer/guitarist/songwriter
Toby Martin whose lyricism and intricate grasp of melodies flow through his
melancholic, soaring voice. The latest album entitled "Skeleton Jar,"
with its dark, emotionally charged content, is a carefully crafted masterwork
and has received critical acclaim from all realms of the music industry.On
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 they graced the worn stage of our own Paradise Rock
Club and tested the might of our heartstrings.
Youth Group took the stage around 10:30PM greeted by a half-hearted applause from the largely distracted, scattered crowd. In light of their recent promotion by television shows and the local alternative radio station FNX, it was surprising to see such a minimal turnout. On average, the attendees were older in age and practically every pair of hands had a beer to call its own. The band began their set with a song from their first album that was never released in the United States, a song that can most accurately be described as one large crescendo. Creeping in with understated instrumentation that made it seem like the band had been on stage for hours and we just hadn't noticed them yet, the sound grew steadily grander and by the end of the song the crowd had taken notice. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a serious case of collective A.D.D. because throughout the set, every moment that the amplitude went any lower than that of a normal conversation, the chatter would overpower the music.
second song of the night was "Someone Else's Dream" from "Skeleton
Jar," which was followed by gems from both of their full-length albums,
but mostly from the more recent of the two. Some personal favorites included
"Lilian Lies," "Baby Body," their cover of Alphaville's
"Forever Young" that was featured on an episode of The O.C. as well
as the show's last soundtrack, and their first single "Shadowlands."
The latter elicited the biggest response from the lacking audience and in
return, the band put forth more energy for the one song than they had for
the majority of their performance. After the final song, "See-Saw,"
the band left the stage without as much as a wave goodbye. With such a swift
exit, I expected some sort of encore, but to my disappointment none came.
Perhaps it was the less-than enthusiastic reception or maybe mere fatigue, but this performance fell rather short of their reputation for compelling live shows. I could easily close my eyes and enjoy the show just as much as I did with them open. There was a serious lack of movement on stage, interaction with the audience, and a general passion that permeated throughout the show. The few times Martin addressed the crowd, his banter was brief and consisted mainly of cliché phrases of appreciation for showing up and introductions to the next song. Nevertheless, the quality of their music and their obvious talent that falls near the vicinity of true excellence are enough to say that Youth Group has a firm grasp on their art and will continue on their slow but steady climb towards the recognition in the States that nears, though not necessarily equals, their popularity down under.
After finishing this tour, as well as a spot at this year's Coachella in California, the band will be returning to their motherland to support Coldplay on their June/July Australian tour.