Yeah Yeah Yeahs are crowd pleasers
She stands at the lip of the stage, marking the spot where, she tells us, ten years ago she fell headfirst to the floor. It’s why the band had started with the cha-pa-pa drums and the dappled intro to Rich – a do-over a decade on.
There’s no danger of a tumble tonight. Rather than a ricocheting frontwoman, Karen O had entered boldly, then slinking, stage whispering, panting, choreographed convulsing and dangling the mic above her gullet like a fire eater. Ten years of performance mastery is evident, but until bodies press around me a few numbers in, something feels amiss, like I’m hearing things underwater, like everything is slowed down by just a fraction. Part of me — most of me — wants the band to come down off the stage. It’s a strange disembodied feeling up here in the stands.
As tempting as it is to reduce the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to a spectacle (I almost began this piece with a detailed description of Karen O’s get up: pearlescent scales of white glitter and a zebra skin cape … if you’re interested) – it’s when I’m not just watching with my eyes or listening with my ears that I get a glimpse of why Fever To Tell spun round and round in my CD player when I was all of 17. From a great vantage point alone something is missed. It’s true that part of the appeal is their penchant for the theatrical. The set is punctuated with Karen O’s wholly necessary change into the intricately studded leather jacket for Zero, glitter canons are fired and float over the crowd, and just before the sting in I-don’t-remember-which song, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner in unassuming stage blacks freeze to create a tableaux – Karen O at the centre, mic held aloft, like a bedazzled Statue of Liberty. But, it’s when ragged yowls soar through me like adrenalin that I’m happiest, when the hot press of bodies around me coaxes me to move.
In Cold Light there’s the swinging refrain “Go Go Go Go Go” and swivelling guitars; In Black Tongue Karen hams it up shimmying along to my favourite line, “Let’s do this like a prison break, I wanna see you scream and shake”. In Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “love song” and favourite, Maps, she pleads alongside a spangly guitar. The ragged chorus of unexpected addition Miles Away sets a frantic pace – a puncture between Gold Lion and set closer Heads Will Roll, which sees The Metro heave and jump and the frontwoman smile with what I can only imagine is a sense of having done her job damn well. They’re crowd pleasers, seasoned pros and this is a performance – taut rather than shambolic.
They close the encore to the tumbling drums and sliding siren guitar of Date with the Night. I clumsily shout along to Karen O’s squawks — this is the closest we’re gonna get to chaos, and I wipe the bead of sweat from my top lip.