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Monday, August 10th, 2009

It's Blitz!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Amanda Blank at The Kool Haus in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI haven’t done any sort of formal review of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ latest album It’s Blitz!, mainly because I think it’d be redundant. Not just because it’s already gotten largely universal praise, but because it should be evident to anyone listening to it that’s it’s a wholly splendid record, and to my ears, the band’s best yet and one of the top of the year from anyone. Heady praise? Yes, but considering my head is pretty much consistently enveloped in a bubble of happy before the end of opening track “Zero” and it doesn’t evaporate for the remainder of the record, I’ll stand by it. It’s remarkable that a band who made their name with abrasive, in-your-face, punk-infused rock would find their crowning achievement – so far – in a record as sleek, synthy and hooky as It’s Blitz!, but there it is. As good as they were at their original sound – which is pretty damn good – they’re better at this.

And as good as they are on record, they’re even better live. My only such experience came in September 2007 at the now-legendary Berkeley Church show, where I have fond memories of getting crushed by hundreds of fans drunk on free booze surging forward towards a mesmerizing Karen O, who just happened to be grabbing my head and screaming in my face. Getting one’s ass kicked was never so much fun, and I couldn’t wait for last week’s two-night stand at the Kool Haus, for which I went to night two, to experience it again. And considering that the Berkeley gig was a semi-private party, many of Toronto’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs disciples had been waiting even longer. A hotly anticipated show? You might say that.

Before the main event, of course, there was the support and for these shows it was a sort-of double-bill with two members of Spank Rock doing DJ duties for fifteen minutes or so before being joined by up-and-coming (based on the PR emails I get) hip-hop artist Amanda Blank, whose debut I Love You just came out. Her short set was high-energy and with a party vibe to it, but she seemed as interested in playing Yeah Yeah Yeahs cheerleader as performing her own material, calling for the crowd to show their love for Karen O on numerous occasions, the audience obliging each time.

Of course, no one in the sold-out house needed a cue to scream in adoration for Ms Orzolek – as soon as the band strode onstage, it was shrieking bedlam. And why not? O is easily one of the most charismatic frontwomen in rock today, complimenting her formidable vocals and presence with a most distinctive sartorial sensibility. Which is to say the woman does love her costumes. And we do love her and her costumes. And I do love photographing her and her costumes. Considering the Berkeley show was notable for being essentially unlit – fitting the dark vibe of the then-current Is Is EP, sure, but a bitch to shoot in – the fact that they decided to match the big and bright production of the new record with equally big and bright stage design was greatly appreciated. It’s never the wrong time for confetti cannons.

I suppose I should talk about the music some, but for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, more than most bands, the visuals are just as crucial as the sounds. With every strut across the stage, every point with her impossibly long fingers, every dramatic pose and particularly appropriate for Blitz!, every huge grin, O is physically embodying their music. It’s the whole package. Just as for all the praise laid at Karen O’s wonderfully stylish feet, equal accolades must go to her bandmates, drummer Brian Chase and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Zinner (and also to nameless fourth utility player) for laying down the massively tight and wall of sound behind her for the career-spanning, 15-song set – glam and glossy when appropriate as on “Heads Will Roll” and “Hysteric”, rough and jagged for the likes of “Y Control” and “Kiss Kiss” when not, though even their jags tend to sparkle like the rhinestones on O’s “Zero” leather jacket. And of course, as predictable as “Maps” was, dedicated to Toronto no less, it still broke your heart. No one loves you like Yeah Yeah Yeahs love you. It’s true.

The National Post, Exclaim!, Panic Manual and eye were all in attendance at the Wednesday show and offer their thoughts.

Photos: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Amanda Blank @ The Kool Haus – August 5, 2009
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Bang”
MP3: Amanda Blank – “Make It Take It” (Eli Escobar remix)
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Heads Will Roll”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Down Boy”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Cheated Hearts”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Turn Into”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Gold Lion”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Y Control”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Pin”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Date With The Night”
MySpace: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Exclaim talks to Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth.

PopMatters talks to Kim Deal, who will be seeing a lot of the 416 (and 705) in the next while as she’s in town this Saturday at Lee’s palace with The Breeders and then returns a fortnight later with Pixies at V Fest Ontario. And if Blurt has their information correct, their set will NOT be a Doolittle set, which is actually perfectly fine with me – they’ll still play the best tunes from that, and we may still get to hear the likes of “Where Is My Mind?”, “Velouria” and “Head On”. I’ll take it.

Under The Radar has an interview with Mew, who are playing the second day of V Fest on August 30 and who will release No More Stories on August 25.

The Line Of Best Fit chit-chats with Mum and Drowned In Sound have declared this Mum week, and are running all manner of Iceland-themed pieces including this one on the state of the Icelandic music scene, post-economic collapse. Their new album Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know is out August 24 and they’re at the Phoenix on October 27.

Daytrotter offers up a session with Longwave.

The new video from Julian Plenti, aka Paul Banks from Interpol finally escaped from the spectre of Carlos D’s dubious facial hair only to grow some of his own, features him canoodling with Metric’s Emily Haines in Toronto’s super-sketchy Waverly Hotel. The album, Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper, came out last week.

Video: Julian Plenti – “Games For Days”

Matt Johnson gives The AV Club a tour of Kim Schifino’s iPod. Matt & Kim are at the Reverb on October 1.

Threadless (the online t-shirt shop, yes) has a video interview with Ume.

By : Frank Yang at 8:24 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post7 Responses.
  1. Adam K. says:

    Great review of the YYYs, Frank… I agree with pretty much everything you said. I was only a moderate fan before, but this show completely blew me away and threw me on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs binge for the last couple of days.

    Also, Sufjan Stevens @ Lee’s on October 1, apparently.

  2. scott says:

    Frank – according to the YYY site earlier this year (http://www.yeahyeahyeahs.com/forum/default.aspx?tid=324206&cid=83) – the “anonymous” fourth was (at that point) Dave Pajo… I was hoping you might’ve had a shot of him, as I couldn’t get a good enough look… but maybe someone else can confirm – was that indeed the “Man From Slint” with the YYYs?

  3. Frank Yang says:

    adam – Lee’s? That’s madness. MADNESS.

    Scott – actually yes, I remember hearing that. No idea if that was him though, too dark to get a shot, I barely got any of Nick and none of Ben. It was all about Karen O.

  4. Bruce says:

    How about, no one loves Yeah Yeah Yeahs like Frank loves Yeah Yeah Yeahs — sounds like Karen had you at the head grab. Hands down your most unequivocally positive review yet.

    I saw the Tuesday show, and it was pretty much as wonderful as you describe Wednesday to have been. Set list varied slightly (see http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/yeah-yeah-yeahs/2009/kool-haus-toronto-canada-bd7b912.html) but the core was the same. I’m jealous, though, that you got a track from Is Is — we got squat.

  5. Brian says:

    Does anybody know where I can get camping tixs for V Fest?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Frank Yang says:

    camping tickets can be had from ticketmaster:

    http://www.virginfestival.ca/ontario/tickets/
    http://www.ticketmaster.ca/promo/rxhbwq?dma_id=527

  7. Brian says:

    Thanks Frank, i checked yesterday and thought they sold out.