Alexandra Palace, London, Saturday May 4
Karen O spews glitter from every extremity at will. Bouncing across the stage like an empress in a mirrorball crown, black feather wings and a sparkly sequinned suit, she stamps her foot on a monitor and a flume of ticker-tape and stardust explodes from her toecap. The 21st century Ziggy? With mosquito sunglasses on…
Likewise, the whole I’ll Be Your Mirror festival is like a glitter-spew from Karen’s brain. Her airy-fairy antics? Prince Rama, a psych-dance duo known for channelling songs from dead pop bands and performing group exorcisms, get carried around the arena draped in net curtains. Her insane costumery? King Kahn & The Shrines play acid-jazz freak-outs dressed as Aztec shamans from space. Her random expletives? Mick Harvey’s eclectic set of Serge Gainsbourg-style Gallic folk includes a song seemingly called ‘Requiem For A Cunt’.
And her rock? There’s chunks of that everywhere. Dirty Beaches cover the spectral garage side, their guitars replaced with industrial metal-punchers. The Locust – dusting off their all-body suits to reform specially for IBYM – provide the noise bursts with their 12-second songs that sound like plague. And while it’s nice to see Jon Spencer still peddling his echoey-basement-blues-with-sporadic-yowls-of-BLOOOOZ-EXPLEYOW-SHEERRNN!!! thing without arrest from anti-terrorist units, it’s Black Lips that sound like the future of garage-rock. They slick back their quiffs mid-song, invite biker saxophonists onstage and roar through songs made for surfing on oil-slicks.
Put them together and what have you got? K! A! R E! N! O! Spitting fountains of water into the air, donning those mosquito specs for ‘Mosquito’ and a caving helmet for ‘Under The Earth’, Karen’s star presence has evolved as spectacularly as her band’s sonic palette. Dotting new album tunes into a faultless greatest hits set, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs vastly outstrip contemporaries like The Strokes and Interpol with their pop adventurism. ‘Sacrilege’ is a grand gospel, ‘Mosquito’ is Latino-rave with Karen cast as the nagging bloodsucker, and ‘Subway’ builds a devastating ballad around the rhythm of a sampled subway train. As a heart-stopping ‘Maps’ gives way to a rampant ‘Date With The Night’, Karen shoots more flumes of ticker-tape from her boot, smashes the microphone into the stage and punches the air, well aware that she remains the ringleader of the most glam-slam rock’n’roll wonderband on the planet.