Webster Hall, New York, April 7
PLEASE DO NOT WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH A SCREEN ON YOUR SMART DEVICE/CAMERA,” reads a sign on the door of Webster Hall tonight. “PUT THAT SHIT AWAY!”
It’s an assertive, aggressive statement but this is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, after all. Just over a week before the release of fourth album ‘Mosquito’, they’ve packed out this relatively intimate venue to remind the crowd what live music is all about – something to be experienced in the moment, not recorded by a phone and then pasted all over the internet.
Armed with a slew of new songs, and with famed Slint guitarist David Pajo by their side, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase offer a taste of what to expect from their UK tour in May by beginning with the title track from the new album. If it doesn’t quite have the bite of the insect it’s named after, the rendition of ‘Gold Lion’ that comes immediately afterwards most definitely does. Her hair peroxide blonde, Karen O prowls the stage in a yellow shorts suit, zebra cape and, for half a song at any rate, a miner’s lamp attached to her head, while the crowd fill in those choral “ooh ooh”s as if experiencing one huge simultaneous orgasm.
Karen O herself is as carnally suggestive as ever, though she’s more sensual than sexual tonight, perhaps mirroring the slower, more soulful nature of the new songs. There are six in total, and while the crowd is noticeably more muted when they’re played, it’s because they’re less familiar with the tunes, not that they’re no good. During ‘Sacrilege’, O stands messianic, her arms outstretched as the packed room chants back the song’s postmodern Gregorian backing vocals at her. On ‘Wedding Song’, the room is filled with a heartwarming sense of love.
It’s slick and polished from start to finish, but there’s still a raw and primal edge to the band. It’s visible in their frantic renditions of ‘Zero’ and ‘Miles Away’, but it’s not until the encore – the graceful, gorgeous shimmer of ‘Maps’, followed by an explosive ‘Date With The Night’ – that it comes to the fore, O falling to her knees and shoving the mic in her mouth as the final chords of the evening play out. She then smashes it into the stage again and again before stamping on it. A feverish close to an intense night.