Sunday, May 31, 2009
Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Aragon
When I bought my tickets, I had my second thoughts. Aside from a few key tracks from It's Blitz (Dull Life, Heads Will Roll) I was not the biggest fan of the mostly electronica-inspired third album of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Where's the punk? Where's the gritty cords? Where's the mosh-friendly beat? I was afraid they were going to play little of their old art-punk/dance-hall hits and instead veer into generic hipster territory. Also the Aragon is known for its terrible sound and ridiculously large occupancy (up to 4,500 people according to their website). I was even close to selling the tickets altogether.
Well, thank Moses I didn't, because this was a most terrific set. Karen O, of course, is the only reason to see them live. Within the course of an hour and a half her outfit had three evolutions, moving from a Kimono top and tiger-striped leggings to a hula-hoop coiled tank top and her infamous leather jacket-- appropriately donned during their newest hit Zero ("so get your leather, leather, leather, leather on... Your Zero"). My favorite thing abou Karen O, though, isn't her clothing as much as her enthusiasm. Spin magazine voted the YYYs at Coachella as "Best Smile" because of her characteristic grin. More than any other band's lead singer, Karen O wholeheartedly seems to enjoy performing.
The set started quietly, with the understated Runaway of their new CD, and crescendoing to Cheated Hearts and Gold Lion off the album Show Your Bones. Dull Life was my favorite, which she played fourth or fifth, but the sing-along awesomeness of Cheated Hearts was a close second ("And we're takin' takin' takin' it off, sometimes I think that I'm bigger than the sound, I think that I'm bigger than the sound!..."). The most pleasant surprise of the night was "Art Star" off their first EP, a growling Le Tigre-inspired manifesto about (you guessed it) the art world ("I've been working on a piece that speaks of sex and desperation/ I've been screwing on the tracks of abandoned train stations") that only the die-hard fans recognized, inspiring a brief moshing fest (partially launched by my friend Kirsten and I) that annoyed the less enthusiastic. And of course the YYYs played a great part of Fever To Tell: Date With the Night, Tick, Black Tongue, Maps (introduction: "Guys, this is a love song!"), Y-Control, amongt others, which have become the backbone of the YYYs' characteristic sound. Unfortunately no songs from their Is Is EP, though (major disappointment).
But WHAT A SHOW. And I didn't even notice the sound inconsistencies that the Aragon is famous for. Using equal numbers of songs per album seems to produce a sure-fire concert. Best songs of the show: the peaceful, emotive Hysteric off It's Blitz ("flow sweetly, hang heavy, suddenly complete me, suddenly complete me"), the gritty electronic- and drum-heavy Heads Will Roll, featuring some of the creepiest lyrics I've ever heard from the trio ("Off with your head, dance ’til you’re dead, heads will roll, heads will roll, heads will roll, on the floor"), and one of their closers, the mosh-prone Black Tongue, which had most of the audience screaming "Let's do this like a prison break, I wanna hear you scream and shake! Uh-HUH, uh-HUH, uh-HUH, uh-HUH!"
Oh, if only people would stop crossing their arms and sulking at concerts like these! MOVE, people!
Allow me to nurse my eardrums and bruised ribs back to shape. Next up: the Decemberists and Gogol Bordello.