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Karen O - Bush Hall, London 04/10/2014

07 October 2014, 10:30 | Written by Amelia Maher

Chandeliers that hang from the ceiling glisten as they drip with intricate glass diamonds. A neon light sign, much like that of an American motel, welcomes you to the Crush Palace (aka West London's Bush Hall). Here, Karen O takes the reigns and is giving lessons on how to deal with the highs and lows of love and lust. Delving into her own experiences, she reveals how to make the most of love, and warns of the pitfalls that come with whirlwind romance.

Tonight, the woman best known as the screaming ball of energy that is the front woman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs takes on a new persona as she takes her latest solo effort Crush Songs out for its first London voyage. Taking to the stage in a stunning floor length, gold-plated dress, Karen O is the image of elegance and style. It is difficult at times to even know if this is the same woman who normally rolls across the stage in eccentric outfits, and instead it feels as though she has become a wiser performer with something different to say. Change and experimentation are the eternal signs of an interesting and successful artist, and it's brilliant to see Karen O come into her own and confidently pull off her own solo set without the help of her normal troupe.

Everything is stripped back to its bare minimum, with only two guitarists providing the backing to Karen O's signature vocals. During songs such as "Ooo" and "Beast", the atmosphere is so hushed and quiet, you could hear a pin drop. The intimacy and grandeur of the venue teamed with the honesty of the songs brings a very personal touch to the performance. Karen O has a presence that endears you towards her, but also pulls you in and makes you listen to every word she says.

Yet, for the first half of the set, she does not speak a word between the songs. It is not clear as to whether this is due to nerves, or because the first half of the set is focused on the most delicate tracks from the album, such as "Rapt" and "So Far", and don't need interfering with. It is only when a mysterious glittering, silver glove is brought out from behind an amp that she begins to open up. "King", a song about Michael Jackson in the afterlife, marks the point when Karen O visibly becomes more comfortable on the stage, as she throws out moves that illustrate the lyrics. It's nothing more than a charming bit of fun, but is totally necessary to break the tension that builds through the delicacy of the other songs.

"Native Korean Rock" is a song that sees a return of the Karen O that we know from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as she shouts and screams, but it is the following song "Days Go By", that marks a huge climatic swell of excellence and the high point of the evening. As it builds and builds, the effect is simply magical. The ballroom chandeliers, the neon signs and the wave of energy that comes off of the stage is spell-binding, as Karen O points out members of the crowd, laughs and looks as though she is finally really enjoying herself as much as everyone else.

When she finally returns finally returns to the stage for the encore and a short rendition of Radiohead's "High And Dry", sang mainly by her guitarist, the night is drawn to a close with the Oscar-nominated "The Moon Song". It can sometimes be hard for artists to leave the band that made them who they are, but Karen O shows that she is perfectly able to walk alone, and Crush Palace is a live setting in which the honesty and understanding that makes up the heart of Crush Songs shines through and take on a life of their own. This was a truly stunning set from a very unique woman.

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