Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Echo Beach in Toronto
Frank YangIt’s just about scientific fact that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs don’t put on a bad show. The New York punk rock/New Wave trio have built and cemented this reputation since their inception in 2000, and though I missed their earliest visits to Toronto, I can testify to the spectacularness of their last two visits – an undersized semi-private TIFF party at the Berkeley Church in September 2007 circa their Is Is EP and their two-night stand at The Kool Haus in support of It’s Blitz! in August 2009. And so while their fourth long-player Mosquito is a relative disappointment – the high points are decent and the rest largely forgettable – their show at Echo Beach on Monday night behind it was plenty of reason to get excited, even if the long weekend timing meant that Echo Beach wasn’t even half full to greet them.
The band’s elevation towards the top of festival lineups this Summer meant that regular tour routing was largely out the window and as such, this date – announced barely a month ago – felt squeezed in between other commitments, and the relative spartan-ness of their set dressing – there basically was none – added to this feeling, though if that meant that we didn’t have to look at a giant backdrop of the Mosquito album art, then that was hardly a bad thing. And if any band could feel confident about having to come out and get by on the strength of their songbook, it’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And having Karen O as a frontwoman certainly doesn’t hurt.
Because let’s be honest, even if they’d gone full Flaming Lips with their stage show, no one would be looking at anything but Karen O. As her bandmates – guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase, plus live utility player David Pajo of Slint and Interpol fame – got down to business, O bounded around the stage as magnetic a performer as you’ll find in rock music today. Decked out in a tasseled white outfit and with a headlamp strapped to her forehead, presumably keeping in theme with show opener “Under The Earth”, O kept the energy levels and audience enthusiasm in the red, even when the confetti cannon that should have doused everyone in glitter at the peak of “Black Tongue” failed to go off.
And that kind of set the tone for the front half of the show – trying their best but not quite clicking. There were several missed cues, the usually super-tight band felt a little out of step with each other, and midway through the set, O declared she’d forgotten the words to “Down Boy”. Being followed by the largely aimless “Subway”, it was starting to feel like this might be a rare off night for the band. They might have felt it as well, as “Maps” – as much of a sure thing in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs arsenal as you’re likely to find – got an extended intro where O dedicated the song to everyone she could think of that perhaps allowed the band to regroup.
If that’s indeed what they did, then it worked. Current single “Despair” was given a reading that put the album version to shame, and the double-whammy of “Y Control” and “Turn Into” elevated things to a far more characteristic Yeah Yeah Yeahs level; Zinner’s guitar solo in the latter was especially fiery. Again, perhaps symbolically, when O stomped on the confetti cannon trigger in jubilant main set-closer “Heads Will Roll”, that shit went off. The first encore opened with one of their finest pop confections – “Cheated Hearts” – amusingly featuring pretty much the whole of the front row being passed the mic to sing (badly) the “oooh ooooh”s in the bridge – and closed with a razor-edged “Tick”, and though by this point much of the crowd had begun inching towards the exit, those who stayed up close got an eyeful in second encore as in “Date With The Night”, O shoved the microphone down her pants and then into her mouth. As you do.
At well under an hour and a half, the show felt a bit slight in length and, compared to the terrifying Berkeley Church and triumphant Kool Haus shows, in substance. But if it failed to deliver in awe, it still more than did so in fun and the only reservations, really, come from the fact that while Yeah Yeah Yeahs don’t ever put on a bad show, they have put on better.
Photos: Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Echo Beach – July 1, 2013
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Date With The Night”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Machine”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Miles Away”
MP3: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Art Star”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Mosquito”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Sacrilege”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Skeletons”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Heads Will Roll”
Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero”
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”
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