Yeah Yeah Yeah’s @ Radio City Music Hall (9/23/09)
“On your feet, New York City!” commanded Karen O, grabbing control of Radio City Music Hall. She would not relinquish her hold in any way for the following ninety minutes. Coming out in what appeared to be a Japanese costume over the melodic notes provided by her bandmates, the captivating lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs stalked the stage like a mannequin as the lights came up to reveal the set: large inflatable eyeballs suspended behind the band, in front of a golden target backdrop. All eyes in the venue were indeed on Karen O. The band kicked into a higher tempo song, and O’s costume was stripped away, along with her rigidity, as she started to prowl back and forth like a tiger tempting its prey, engaging and retreating, all the while keeping the audience (especially those in the front rows), fascinated. O would go through multiple outfits throughout the evening, in the manner of someone who clearly grew up idolizing Madonna, though her stage presence was more akin to Alice Cooper or a Genesis-version of Peter Gabriel. Unlike most lead singers, she did not engage in a winking interaction with the crowd, coasting through the performance on reputation. She held the sincerity of her role the entire time, with only a brief crack showing through during a touching encore of “Maps” that she dedicated to all members of the band’s hometown, both familiar and unknown. In terms of concerts I have attended, only Mick Jagger and Bono showed a comparable command of the stage.
I am not too familiar with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but their musical performance was powerful enough to convince even the faux-hipsters scattered throughout the crowd too mainstream to ever trek to the East Village, let alone Brooklyn. Jazz-inspired drummer Brian Chase kept a strong beat through waves of drum rolls, reminding me of a mix of Keith Moon and Stewart Copeland, while guitar player Nick Zinner came up with some unique tunings to create an incredibly diverse sound, switching from lush harmonics to straight-forward garage rock, often in the same song. The band was rounded out by a multi-instrumentalist who played multiple guitars and keyboards (but no bass, a nice relief for these concert-worn ears).
The set list seemed to comprise selections from each of their LPs, and of course all the true fans were amped for every song. However, Yeah Yeah Yeahs music does not lend itself to sing-a-longs, so even the encore was devoid of a “Free-Fallin’”-like moment of audience participation. On the other hand, even though Radio City is not designed for freedom of expression, it seemed that everyone we sat near was dancing the entire show, completely engaged in spite of the constraining seating arrangements. The highlight of the show had to occur about halfway through. Steam blew across the stage as the song slowly began, Karen O emerging in yet another costume to face the dim blue lighting. The song built to its crescendo. The lights began to rise. Suddenly, confetti came billowing out from canisters on either side of the stage, and roadies released two of the inflated eyeballs into the crowd as beachballs. The crowd went crazy, for once taking its collective eye off of Karen O. While these effects served as an entertaining climax to the song, they lingered through the start of the next song, with the beachballs distractingly remaining in circulation for almost the duration of the show.
After a brief encore, the show was over, and Karen O released the audience into midtown Manhattan. Perhaps because of the crowd, or because of the setting, or perhaps because of the 11 pm curfew, the night did not finish with a rush of energy that normally accompanies a great show. Fortunately for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the indelible image of their lead singer was certainly imprinted in the dreams of everyone in attendance that night.
- Shake It
- Heads Will Roll
- Dull Life
- Gold Lion
- Miles Away
- Soft Shock
- Cheated Hearts
- Turn Into
- Maps (Acoustic w/ strings)
- Hysteric (Acoustic w/ strings)
- Y Control
- Date With The Night