The New York legends return to the London stage after "five long years".
“It’s five long years since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played Lahndaaaah!,” yowls Karen O, resplendent in a space-silver Pink Ladies bodysuit, Suzi Quattro In The 25th Century. And Christ we’ve missed them. It’s been five long years in which po-faced glumtronica has become de rigueur, ‘alternative rock’ has been taken over by boybands and someone let Mumford & Sons headline Glastonbury. We’ve never needed Karen O to strut into the All Points East dressed like a Japanese biker goddess, stamp a flume of pink confetti out of the front of the stage and gargle a microphone while doing the crab more.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs have long been front-runners for the title of best live band in the world, and their APE return pretty much seals the deal. Storming hell-for-studded-leather into ‘Y Control’ with Nick Zinner spooling out his celestial sewer riffs between taking snapshots of the crowd, Brian Chase drumming with all the grinning delirium of a cult captive and Karen whipping the monitors with her mike lead like a dervish dominatrix of PA equipment, they throw themselves into a tight and tumultuous hour without an ounce of flab in sight.
It’s very much a celebration of YYYs, rather than a rejuvenation. There are no new songs and only ‘Down Boy’ from 2007’s ‘Is Is’ EP could be considered a deep cut, an ominous, scarred blues rocker that finds Karen growling “down boy, down” with the sinister sexuality of Grace Jones training a rottweiler. But what a jolt-awake reminder of YYYs brilliance the set proves. ‘Pin’ all silvery savagery. ‘Black Tongue’ flipping genders with the line “boy you just a stupid bitch and girl you just a no good dick” way ahead of its time. ‘Gold Lion’ a masterclass in wasted glam. ‘Zero’ a tech rock stampede complete with Karen’s semi-legendary studded biker jacket and gigantic inflatable eyeballs bouncing around Victoria Park.
By the time a phenomenal ‘Maps’ arrives – “The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ love song” dedicated to “someone you loved and lost, someone you loved more than life itself” and ending with Karen pulling the Lycra from her chest to get the microphone as close to her heart as possible – APE is a gibbering, gyrating wreck and, amid an ocean of laptop mundanity, YYYs emerge as a reminder of the power and punch of scuzz-fucked garage rock. It all ends, on ‘Date With The Night’, with smashed microphones, slaughtered guitar pedals, shredded skins and Karen faking orgasms like Meg Ryan at an early LCD show. “I think that I’m bigger than the sound,” she sang earlier on the stirring ‘Chested Hearts’ – in fact the sound is just as big, and just as brilliant.