BERKELEY — Young the Giant and Fitz and the Tantrums brought their co-headlining tour to the Hearst Greek Theatre Thursday evening; the penultimate performance of a tour that has crisscrossed the country all summer long. The Southern California bands have had an uncanny ability to build devoted fanbases over most of the last decade, but brought different strengths and musicalities to the table.
Young the Giant, playing the later set on Thursday, balanced grittier garage numbers with melodic pop, with the first half of its set concentrating on the grungier material. The band opened with “Oblivion,” one of a handful of tracks from 2018 album Mirror Master. The tune began mellow and gave concertgoers a chance to get acclimated from Fitz and the Tantrums’ glossier sound before building in intensity in the final third.
The quintet followed that up with the impassioned “Something to Believe In,” from 2016’s Home of the Strange. Frontman Sameer Gadhia rocked back and forth, running his hands through his hair and holding his head as if in pain. Following the mid-temp “Heat of the Summer,” another Mirror Master cut, Gadhia announced the band was “gonna take it back for a minute” as a lead-in to Young the Giant’s “Apartment,” from 2010 debut of the same name.
Following moody 2016 rocker “Amerika” and “Nothing’s Over”—which was complemented with a beautiful video of a pink, purple and red sunset that lit up the crowd—Gadhia busted out some funky dance moves and hopped around the stage during an extended instrumental jam. “Home of the Strange,” meanwhile blended distorted bass and dissonant guitars. The song devolved
At this point Young the Giant shifted to more melody-centric songs like “Titus Was Born,” which led off with folky fingerpicking until a synth and deep bass came in after the first verse. The similarly pretty “Firelight” came next.
“It’s about the presence of things in our life that carry weight,” Gadhia said, speaking more during the introduction to this song than the rest of the main set combined. He spoke of both the internal baggage that drags people down and the internal strength that provides hope when it’s sought to its full potential to bring people together. The song was quiet but not sparse, with the band holding notes a step longer and taking advantage of the negative space rather than layering as many sounds together as possible. When Gadhia sang in falsetto, it turned the song into a lullaby.
The tune went right into 2010 hit “Cough Syrup,” and the sticky-sweet transition was the highlight of the performance as thousands of fans sang along and even drowned out the band a couple of times. Before the band transitioned back to a rougher sound,” it covered another slower melodic tune, “Panoramic Girl.” Young then Giant concluded with the denser “Mind Over Matter” and “Call Me Back” before a four-song encore that ended with the band’s biggest hit, “My Body.”
Fitz and the Tantrums also balanced their influences, with the two surfacing most often being poppy thumpers and Motown-tinged funk numbers. The sextet kicked off with the former; the jock-jammy “Get Right Back,” one of six songs from the band’s forthcoming record, All the Feels (out next month).
With the second and third, the band switched to the funkier direction on “Spark,” off 2013’s More Than Just a Dream, and the brassy “Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” from 2010’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces. Whenever the Fitz and the Tantrums raised the funkier elements higher in the mix, such as the deep sax solos and the dual vocal delivery of Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, the band shined brighter.
But there were hits, too! “Out of My League,” “Handclap” and “The Walker” all hit a dancing nerve for concertgoers and showed the band’s skill at hooky songwriting. With that in mind, it’s likely that new bop “123456” will be just as big of a hit.
“Break the Walls,” from More Than Just a Dream, was highlighted by poppy “hey-oh” shout-alongs. Twinkling keys accented “MoneyGrabber,” meanwhile, which brought the Motown vibes back.
Fitzpatrick then told a story about how the band, in its infancy, couldn’t travel far from SoCal but found a following in the Bay Area. He dedicated “Fool” to longtime fans as the band weaved more widely into funk territory before swerving back to sugary pop on new cut “OCD.” The song started like Devo’s “Whip It!”
Elsewhere, Fitz and the Tantrums approached disco on “Fools Gold,” got emotional on the euphoric “I Need Help!” and started a few more singalongs on “Roll Up” and “Burn It Down.”
Berlin-based singer-songwriter Alice Merton opened the concert with a too-short set of bangers from her 2019 debut record, Mint, including “Learn to Live,” “No Roots,” “Funny Business,” “Lash Out” and “Why So Serious.” The artist, who’s also lived in the U.K. and in Canada, among other places, is currently a judge on the German version of The Voice but is also working on new material, some of which she said before the show she hopes will be out sooner rather than later.