Live Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

O2 Apollo, Manchester, 01/05/13

Support: K-Holes

Ever since the opening pulse of Zero sent vibrations all through my system back in 2009, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been in pole position on my list of “Acts To See Live Before I’m Deaf”.  Over four years, I’ve nursed the notion that witnessing Karen O and co. composing explosions onstage would be akin to a religious experience.  I pictured being in a grotty, cavernous venue, squeezed among thousands of other worshippers; shrieking, stomping and swooning to the New York trio’s glam-punk sounds.

Well, at the O2 Apollo in Manchester at the beginning of this month, those fantasies were finally realised for myself and my two accompanying friends, Josh and Jess (albeit in a much lovelier, grander venue).  As the time ticked forward tantalisingly, our nervous energy was met with the throaty, lo-fi stylings of K-Holes, the night’s opening act.

The five-piece started the evening competently enough, and in many ways, their music was pleasantly surprising.  Although they never really got the crowd moving beyond the appreciative toe-tap, the group had just enough swagger to maintain our buzz levels.  Somehow, the loudest instruments of the ensemble managed to be the frontwoman’s maracas, while the bassist carried with her the sexiest stage presence I’ve witnessed in a good long while.

Well, that was until Karen O flounced onto the stage to light up the Apollo with the opening powerhouse of Sacrilege.  Wearing a bright yellow jacket and with her blonde locks flicking all over her heavily mascaraed eyelids, Karen O instantly had everybody present jumping as the song built to its huge, gospel-hewn finale (sadly without choir accompaniment, but the audience made for a competent substitute).

The woman truly does boast a remarkable stage presence.  With her excitable disposition, perpetual wide-eyed grin and dynamite dance moves, she had the entirety of the crowd in the palm of her hand for the duration of the gig.  When onstage, she somehow gelled two separate personas into one glorious whole.  With her cheeky smile and outlandish costume choices, she outwardly seemed like an innocently cheeky youth, full of beans and mischief.  But all the while, there was an electric sensuality fuelling her performance.  With her animalistic yelps, her penchant for deep-throating microphones, and – at the climax of Y Control – her stunt whereby she snaked her mic through her flies, she simply oozed pheromones.

“The gig heartily delivered with fifteen high-wire distillations of energy, excitement and real, heartfelt emotion.”

Her bandmates were just as iconic onstage.  Nick Zinner, clad in black (as ever), scrubbed out buzzsaw guitar riffs with his awesome hairdo shaking in every direction, and Brian Chase performed with an unhinged look in his eyes through the whole set – most engagingly so during Soft Shock, wherein his crazed jubilance behind the kit became totally infectious to those in the audience.

The set was pleasingly democratic, with each of the group’s four albums getting a fair airing.  An early highlight was the glam-grunge thrash of Black Tongue, at the end of which Karen O stamped on a floor switch, showering the crowd with Y-shaped scraps of gleaming confetti.  Under The Earth made a menacing transition to the live set, before old-school fans went a little crazy in the wake of Art Star.  Karen O then skipped gleefully offstage, as Zinner and Chase began churning out the opening bars of Zero.  After a prolonged absence (almost providing an encore in itself), Karen O re-emerged from the wings in her studded-leather jacket, which prompted mass mayhem as the synth-pop masterpiece unfolded in all its visceral, euphoric glory.  For four minutes, I was in gig nirvana: few other live spectacles have come close.

The second half of the set was no less frenetic, as the band zipped through classics such as the campfire stomp of Gold Lion and new highlight Despair (to which Josh almost wept in gratitude).  Heads Will Roll ended the body of the concert by stirring the crowd into a tangled frenzy of raised arms, sweatily interlocked bodies and raw throats.

And of course, the encore was set.  The group’s stripped-back, slowed-down rendition of Maps was truly beautiful: a lighters-aloft moment which found the band at their most emotionally potent.  And then, they tossed one final stick of dynamite into the audience for the big finish of Date With The Night, which was treated with the wildest reception of all; a fitting conclusion to a spectacular evening.

Half an hour later, tucked away in a snug corner of a Mancunian pub, Josh, Jess and myself discussed the success of the evening.  Sure, the band didn’t play all of the greats: no Cheated Hearts, Hysteric, Tick, nor Dull Life.  But in a gig like that, we were grateful for what we did receive: fifteen high-wire distillations of energy, excitement and real, heartfelt emotion.  Although I am now able to cross the Yeah Yeah Yeahs off that list, that doesn’t mean I won’t be rushing to see them again as soon as they return to these English shores.


Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Sacrilege // Black Tongue // Mosquito // Phenomena // Under The Earth // Art Star // Zero // Subway // Soft Shock // Gold Lion // Y Control // Despair // Heads Will Roll.  Maps // Date With The Night.



Posted on May 12, 2013, in The Music World and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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