Young The Giant performing at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at UBC in Vancouver, BC, Canada on August 10th 2023 © Jamie Taylor

Live Review: Young the Giant + Milky Chance @ UBC Thunderbird Arena, Vancouver – August 10th 2023

This week, two titans of indie rock rolled into Vancouver for a colourful double bill at the UBC Thunderbird Arena in the form of Milky Chance and Young the Giant. Each brought a different style and creative vision to the stage, bringing a little something to please everyone in attendance at the modest stadium show. 

The German-born and bred Milky Chance, a band that garnered international attention with their 2013 debut album Sadnecessary, was the first to fill the arena with their upbeat tunes. The group assembled at the front of the stage with custom panels of light bars enclosing them in a funky cage. The panels provided a riveting backdrop as patterns tracked across them to the beat, paired with colourful strobes throughout the absolute party of a set. They started off tight with “Synchronize” and the fun just kept on coming, the sea of people waving their arms vigorously back and forth to the “ay-ai-ay-ai” of “Cocoon”. Packing as much as they could, they went straight into “Down by the River”, the band engulfed in shadows in a dimly lit haze before rippling lights kicked in on the chorus.

Milky Chance @ Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver – August 11th 2023

After a string of crowd-pleasers spanning their earlier career, the lads busted out some tracks from their latest, more krautrock-inspired album Living In a Haze, released just two months ago yet already feeling so integrated into the zeitgeist. The eponymous single from the record, which is inspired by the feeling of being so in the moment that you are aware of anything around you, is infinitely danceable with a swerving synth, and had everyone in the rafters grooving on their feet. “We just came from Berlin,” frontman Clemens Rehbein explained, “so we had to bring some club vibes,” by way of introduction to the band’s stretched-out, grimy, stripped-back cover of “Tainted Love.” They followed this up with a heavily distorted electronic number exemplar of their latest sound and another grimy ravers’ bop with the old gig trick of getting the entire floor to crouch only to bounce up at the beat drop.

Milky Chance flipped back to their reggae-infused origins with classic “Flash Junked Mind”, leading into the unmistakable cymbal clap harkening fan fave “Stolen Dance” in all of its laid-back island vibes and singable chorus, as glittering gold specks of lights twinkled behind them. Punching onward and upward with “Colorado”, the band continued to remind me of the prolific hit-makers these indie heroes are. The incredibly tight and fun set wrapped with one last party jam, as one of the multi-instrumentalists completely wailed on the harmonica, blowing his heart out into the mic. As the bandmates were all dressed like a bunch of dads in the 90s, I found it fitting that a troupe of band kidlets came out to take in the roar of the crowd after their big finale.

Young the Giant @ Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver – August 11th 2023

After a bit of set redressing on the stage, California ensemble Young the Giant set sail, taking a very different approach to their openers. If MC was hoping to bring the disco, YTG’s operative was to bring the divine. Bouncing around less through their discography, the band focused on playing the majority of their 2022 release American Bollywood. The album is an interesting endeavour, seeing lead singer Sameer Gadhia firmly at the helm and on a mission to reconnect with his roots through traditional Indian instrumentation and musical tropes. The album has some definite peaks, but suffers slightly from an overproduced feel, smoothening out interesting rough edges in a poppier vibe, and lacking sonar distinction across songs. 

Regardless of the album’s reception, their stage production fit the theme in a visually dynamic form, with an incredible chandelier of marigolds and Mughal-style multifoil archways framing glowing mandalas. Their performance also incorporated short storytelling interludes with colour short videos, poetic if verging on pretentious. The vibe really came together with new tracks like “Wake Up”, giving the psychedelic sitar vibes characteristic of jam band odysseys and opening with a classic Hindi radio intro. Another fresh track that was exciting in the live performance was “Dollar $tore”, featuring movements flowing from a raga-style line to a light tabla bridge before accelerating to a sunshine sitar warp tunnel. Unfortunately, many other newer features failed to thrill.

In and amongst the new material Young the Giant busted out the first hits that launched their musical career. “Cough Syrup” was performed with particular aplomb, a soulful rendition of the emotionally charged song. Gadhia oozed charisma, ramping up throughout the set to a peak at “Tightrope”, ripping off his impeccably tailored suit jacket and moonwalking across the floor. The band covered a lot of ground on the expansive stage, and achieved a melodious musical unity across their selection, ringing out with impeccable clarity while swimming in the deep streaming synth of “Mind Over Matter”. 

After a brief exit, the band returned for their final leg, but not before Sameer delivered a heartfelt speech about how much performance means to him and his bandmates. “We lost our voice and lost our soul not being able to perform,” he intoned. “You mean a lot to us.” As the group lulled the audience to a conclusion with some slower numbers, a massive disco ball descended from the flower chandelier to cast dazzling light across the room, adding to the beauty of the waving of pinhole lights from the audience’s phones in the stands. Not to leave us on a down note, the band got wild once more with the slamming song “My Body” cementing their place in the era’s annals of indie rock glory. 

Milky Chance Set List

  • Synchronize
  • Ego
  • Cocoon
  • Down by the River
  • Golden
  • Living in a Haze
  • Better Off
  • Tainted Love (cover)
  • Don’t Let Me Down
  • Flashed Junk Mind 
  • Stolen Dance
  • Colorado
  • Running
  • Sweet Sun

Young the Giant Set List

  • American Bollywood
  • Wake Up
  • Cough Syrup
  • The Walk Home
  • Apartment
  • Nothing’s Over
  • Dollar $tore
  • Cult of Personality
  • Heat of the Summer
  • Dancing in the Rain
  • Tightrope
  • Mind Over Matter
  • Titus Was Born
  • Superposition
  • Silvertongue
  • My Body

Words © Krysten Maier

Photos © Jamie Taylor