YEAH YEAH YEAHS with BLOOD ON THE WALL and IMAAD WASIF at Kool Haus, April 10. Tickets: $27-$32. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
There's something strangely reassuring about being at a show where the crowd wear their fandom on their sleeves - literally. At Kool Haus Monday, I got caught up in a sea of Yeah Yeah Yeah wannabes.
Pretty much every girl in the joint was rocking some variation on the Karen O ironic coif/Williamsburg space-age paper doll combo, while the dudes eschewed mimicking Nick Zinner and Brian Chase in favour of styling themselves after former O'boyfriends (there were more Angus Andrews present than Spike Jonzes).
Curiously, although two out of three members of openers Blood on the Wall operate a second-hand clothing shop in NYC, the anti-style rock 'n' roll crew owned the stage like they were flipping a massive middle finger to all the fashion victims in the crowd with every fuzzed-out riff.
Dressed down in a banal T-shirt, bassist Courtney Shanks did her best Hope Sandoval impression over the band's more downtempo numbers, providing some druggy breathing room before brother Brad hollered mightily over his roughed-up, ear-blistering rafter-shakers. The audience dug it, though the band offered no silly tricks or clever gimmicks beyond exuberant, straightforward rawk.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs , on the other hand, were full of nifty prop action. Their bashfully hyper-performative frontwoman could not stop introducing new items from her tickle trunk into her manic stage show.
As her bandmates and touring guitarist/first opener Imaad Wasif stoically slashed their way through the fractured blues-punk of the tunes from the Yeahs' new Show Your Bones disc - which formed the bulk of the set, which did, however, include a stunning run through Y Control - O pony-danced, whirled like a dervish, blew geysers of water in the air, made suggestive microphone gestures and periodically flung herself to the ground.
Every so often she'd wave her snazzy finger fringe (attached to a wristband) at the crowd, or strike poses with silly hats. One ponderous ballad started out with O marching around in what looked like a disco-ball pith helmet; another found her traipsing about with a towel over her head.
Hamming aside, O's an unbelievably captivating frontwoman. Despite the "indie rock sex symbol" tag attached to her name, the really interesting thing about watching the lead Yeah perform is that you realize she has a raw, ballsy energy that's generally reserved for outlandish male rock singers. Something about the Kool Haus show reminded me of AC/DC's Angus Young.
That's not to say she's all flash, no talent: O possesses a remarkable punk diva voice, an instrument over which she has tons of control. She stretched her vocals into a honky-tonk heartbreaker howl for the rockabilly stomp of Mysteries, let out feral hoots and hisses, then settled into broken muse mode for the encore version of Maps.
Too bad the echoey cavern of the Kool Haus made the newer material crisper and more precise on disc than anything from Fever To Tell - sound too muddy and bass-heavy to properly showcase O's wail.
No wonder she felt compelled to pull out the silly hats.