Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Islington Academy, London 15/07/13

17 July 2013, 16:33 | Written by Lauren Down

If hindsight is 20/20, it offers the best lens through which to appreciate the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

That might sound ridiculous but let me explain what I mean. Upon release of their uncompromising, visceral debut album in 2003, the Brooklyn art punk trio were seen by many as nothing but inflated buzz – incredible inflated buzz – but buzz nonetheless, and as such were expected to disappear into the ether once the next wave of early turn of the millenium bands crashed onto our musical shores.

Two years later and 2005′s Show Your Bones proved the three-piece were in it for the long haul. The slower pace, acoustic anthemics and bolder, studio production marked an incredible leap in direction which, although was critically well received, turned many a fan’s nose up. By the time It’s Blitz came around however, Show Your Bones was a classic: A perfect example of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ability to hold onto the essence of their sound but grow and change with their experiences. It’s Blitz itself re-wrote their identity once more, side stepping Brian Chase and Nick Zinner’s classic drum/guitar interplay by bringing electro pop synths to the fore, which again, despite it’s critical acclaim, initially disappointed some fans who were unable to move past the instrumental focus shift. Soon, it was to be held up as one of their best records to date.

And so it is with their most recent effort Mosquito, something which upon release I, amongst several others, were underwhelmed by but which, based on tonight’s live outing, looks to deliver a hindsight slap in the face to naysayers once more.

The frontwoman’s frontwoman, Karen O emerges in typically blazing attire – forget ‘Suit & Tie’, we’re talking sparkling silver suit jacket and shorts. Her new blonde bob dipping over tear drop eye make-up and the most infectious smile, she surveys the 800 capacity venue with a childishly excited look in her eyes before launching into debut 2001 single ‘Bang’. It receives a surprisingly tame reception from a crowd I expected to be full of die-hard fans but it’s brutal stop start rhythms perfectly pave the way for Fever To Tell‘s ’Black Tongue’ – Karen’s body shakes (as she sings “I wanna see you squeal and shake”) and an early glitter explosion from the stage aiding the loosening of limbs.

‘Gold Lion’s ‘We Will Rock You’-esque drum beats inspire an extended clap-along before the slinky, guitar driven howls of ‘Slave’ pave the way for that instantly recognisable, momentous ‘Cheated Hearts’ intro. Continuing to add little performance art touches to the show O takes off her jacket as she sings the songs corresponding lyrics. Delving into the front row with her microphone outstretched a hilarious couple of minutes ensue where members of the crowd are singled out from the general “ooh-oh-oooh” harmonies circulating the room to offer their own voices up to the speaker system. The results range from the perfectly acceptable to the humorously out of tune and the downright loutish and cringeworthy. Everyone is laughing as Karen screams “Yessss, you guys are just what I needed man!”

‘Subway’, one of the most interesting moments of the new album, follows – the clattering of the subway tracks bubbling under O’s frail vocals as she does nothing but cosy up to touring bassist David Pajo. A rare outing for ‘Wedding Song’ follows as she says “We don’t do this song often but the love of my life is in the crowd tonight, so I’d like to dedicate this to Barnaby Clay.” She can’t stop grinning. She’s making eye contact with everyone. Feeding off their happiness as well as her apparent own. The song bears witness to two false starts, O looking nervous and vulnerable for the first time. She disappears off stage once it’s finished, we’re not sure whether she just needs a moment but when she returns, wearing that trademark leather jacket, we all know just what we’re in for.

The high octane energy of ‘Zero’ is just what this place needed to tip it over the edge, it’s pulsating synths and heavy, dirty disco beats give way transforming the place from a polite dancing hall to a full blown, moving as one mosh. ‘Turn Into’ and more recent heartbreaking number ‘Despair’ follow. The latter is another incredible cut from their most recent album sees O’s voice take centre stage as she also asks the question that has been on our lips since this show was announced – “why are they playing Islington Academy?” “This is fun huh? So intimate. So private” says Karen, as if after Alexandra Palace she really wanted to take things back to a certain level of underground fever.

Usual set cut ‘Y Control’ is replaced by a crowd request in the form of ‘Art Star’, the song name that arose the loudest out of a mesh of voices yelling their favourites. Grabbing a glittery blue cloth and throwing it over her head, Karen screams for dear life as strobe lights flash, Nick’s trademark guitar yelps forth and Brian’s drumming ties the wonderfully chaotic mess together before Karen stuffs the cloth in her mouth like she’s vomiting it out.

The encore brings two songs we could only pray would make an appearance. The first being ‘Maps’, again Nick’s guitar grabbing the limelight while Brian’s bass heavy thuds drive things relentless forward. “This is our love song and it’s dedicated to you, and you, and you, and you” she says point into the crowd before pulling aside her top to pound her chest with the microphone.

The second is, of course, ‘Date With The Night’ – the song that confirmed their pedigree all those years ago. Its delivery is as frantic, raw and powerful as it ever was, 800 people all completely loosing “it” in unison is something that you don’t get to witness enough during London club shows. Two crowd surfers raise above the mosh and Karen looks on proudly. During the break down Brian holds his stick in the air, Karen and Nick forming a triangle of composed, playful musicians whose hearts are still rooted in that early noise aesthetic. More “Y” shaped glitter explodes as the frenzy kicks back up, Karen leaving the stage after a ceremonious attempt to destroy the microphone with every flailing drum beat.

Looking back on tonight, and on the entirety of Yeah Yeah Yeahs career, it doesn’t alway feel perfect at the time, but that soon changes.

Photograph by Minh Le. See full gallery here.

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