[EDITOR’S NOTE: You know the drill. Below is our man Amrit’s third concert review for Stereogum. Next time, he’ll need no introduction. Last night our intrepid reporter was blown away by Karen O’s stage prowess and the band’s new Bones. He also snapped some sweet photos before getting kicked out by security! If you’re going tonight, take a tiny camera. -Scott]
“Hi, we’re Yeah Yeah Yeahs and we’re back in New York!” Anyone hearing the leaked Show Your Bones tracks and fearing the Gwen Stefanization of Karen O, take heed: Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back, true to form, with a set long on new material and guaranteed to drop your jaw. Friday night’s sold out show saw the band showcase these stellar songs to an awed, if unexpectedly subdued, Bowery Ballroom. Crowd aside, if this performance was indication, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are in for a massive year.
Guitarist Nick Zinner was first to the stage, rakishly thin and Anime-cool in appearance. Brian Chase soon followed, sitting behind the drum kit and beginning his ceaseless rhythmic sway, a metronomic dance that would anchor the others’ erratic (yet calculated) thrusts and movements. Once the mood was set and expectations heightened, Karen made her diva like appearance, replete with beatific smile, to a throng of adoring cheers.
Her birthday-celebrating mother being in attendance would prove no inhibition. Karen 2.O was every bit the beer-swilling, theatrical vixen we last knew and loved: fanning two oversized feathers and stretching into Kabuki-styled poses; convulsing on her back before jumping up to a shoulder high kick; interrupting tortured moments mid-song with a rapture inducing smile; mixing displays of hyperbolic confidence with shoe staring, endearing reticence. A&R folks, put away your pads, this is no formula. This is Karen O, a singular artist, and one of our generation’s truly iconic rock stars.
The band, joined occasionally on guitars and keys by Imaad Wasif (of alaska!), presented its new material with well placed confidence and enthusiasm. While only a few songs felt as immediately undeniable as the standouts from Fever To Tell, YYYs’ set obliterated any fears of a sophomore slump.
- “Honey Bear” is an electrified, art-rock jig, all upbeat accents and three-note melody.
- “Down Boy” is a sexy stomp of a showcase for Chase’s ingenuity: his propulsive, down beat, open hi-hat dominates the proceedings, creating momentum that Karen and Nick ride with haunting melodies and powerful guitars.
- “Phenomena” arrives with similarly slinky groove and melody, here carried by Zinner’s darkly appealing riffage and distorted six-stringed assault.
- “Turn Into,” with its radio ready tune and rudimentary chord progression, was the set’s only song that resembled the restrained-pop direction suggested by the leaked Gold Lion tracks — a great, driving composition and a strong pre-encore set closer.
The evening’s older songs (of which there were at least two too few, perhaps feeding the crowd’s malaise) included the heavy exhalations of “Miles Away” (from their eponymous EP), as well as Fever To Tell standouts “Black Tongue,” “Maps,” and “Modern Romance.” Of course, there was the newly electrified jangle pop of “Gold Lion” – not technically old, but it sure feels that way, doesn’t it? (And yes — it kills live.)
“So this is a love song,” Karen said after returning for the encore, giggling over the looped guitar trill intro of “Maps.” After dedicating the song to each of her band members’ lovers, Ms. O’s personal dedication was offered for “all of you motherfuckers in the audience tonight — my love, my love, my love!” Somehow, much like each beat of her stage act, this consecration averted cliché and lodged itself in our chests. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back. You have been warned.
[Happy Birthday to Karen’s Mom]
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