Yeah Yeah Yeahs live

By Emily Smith

I tend to associate bands and genres with the people who introduce me to them. For that reason, I can’t listen to O.A.R. (unrequited high school love) or any ska (ex-best friend). The boy who got me into the Yeah Yeah Yeahs treated me terribly and broke my heart. I can’t help but think of him when I hear “Man” from their 2003 release Fever to Tell, but I never gave it up—the album is just too freaking good.

An exciting mystery surrounds lead singer Karen O, because no one understands how she manages to be so incredible. I like to describe Fever to Tell as forty minutes of Karen O’s orgasms. She screams, screeches, and moans to a background of intense, fast-paced guitar and thrashy, crashy drums.

The band is currently touring in support of their March release Show Your Bones. In a recent Pitchfork interview, Karen O said that she, “was feeling a little bit more aversion to the more rockish, noisy, kinda histrionic vocals,” and that sentiment is obvious in the album’s more melodic, less crazy, but still intense songs. I love the album, even though it lacks a certain amount of Karen O’s je ne sais quoi.

I’ve told many of my friends that I would willingly eat my firstborn child in order to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, so I was thrilled to simply pay $25 for a ticket instead. I had heard that they were incredible live, so I was excited to witness Karen O’s antics for myself last Sunday at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

My companion and I arrived early enough to be just a few feet from the stage, packed in among a surprisingly diverse crowd (hipsters and indie kids and punks—oh my!) I was disappointed in the opening band, Blood on the Wall. They seemed promising because they had a female bassist/vocalist. That combination fascinates me, but in Blood on the Wall’s case, it was improperly executed. Though their music was okay, her vocals, along with the tantrum-like vocals of the male guitarist, rendered their performance nearly unbearable. And call me shallow, but I think that rock stars should look the part. Blood on the Wall was an unattractive band. Unacceptable.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, on the other hand, take the rock star look to a whole new level. Guitarist Nick Zinner, with his messily spiked hair and abnormally pale face, bears some resemblance to Edward Scissorhands. I had seen him perform before because he toured with Bright Eyes last summer, but since Bright Eyes is a depraved excuse for a popular indie band, so I was excited to see him in his natural habitat. Drummer Brian Chase is…well, he’s a drummer. And Karen O wore a little dress that Tinkerbelle would wear if she were an astronaut.

Their performance was remarkably high-energy. Karen O bounced across the stage, deep-throating the microphone and generally filling everyone in the audience with powerful sexual energy. Nick rocked out in a quiet, charming way, and Brian was mesmerizing. They played songs from their new album without neglecting the audience’s adoration for older ones. Their encore included a great acoustic version of “Maps,” their most popular song.

So generally, I would say that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are amazing live. But—and this is a big but—their entire set, encore included, was less than thirty minutes long. I find it unconscionable for a band with such a devoted following to play such a short set. Granted, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are better at performing than most people are at converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. I’m sure that takes a lot out of them. Or perhaps their shows can’t last any longer than a coke high. Regardless, is it unreasonable to expect their show to last at least 40-45 minutes?

Despite my disappointment in their set length, I would totally spend money to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs again. Their performance energy was very impressive, and their music is just so, so good. If you have a chance to see them sometime, take it! Just don’t expect to have a late night.

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