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Concert Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs (July 1 2013 @ Echo Beach, Toronto)

As heavy grey clouds loomed over Echo Beach, threatening to turn sand into mud and Canada Day fireworks non-existent, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ entrance on-stage marked the sudden cessation of spittle only moments prior. This good omen signaled the 90 minutes to come, as the New York art rock trio (with touring member, David Pajo, as second guitarist) treated the audience of 2,600 to one of the most energetic and captivating performances to come through the city in a long while.

The exuberance of the group is due in large part to frontwoman Karen O, whose skipping, dancing, gyrating, and giggling could make even the most reserved smile and move their feet (and this has been the case for years, see our review of their show at Kool Haus in 2009). Her playful sexuality mixed with an aura of badass-bitch recalls an era where Deborah Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, and Joan Jett ruled the stage. It’s this energy, along with drummer Brian Chase’s wide grins and drumstick flair, and stoic guitarist Nick Zinner’s occasional audience interactions with a digital camera, which should have caused a frenzy with the Toronto crowd. Should have.

And herein lies one of the central issues with the concert: the discouraging lack of energy from the audience. Only when some of the band’s most dance-able (and radio-friendly) songs were played—‘Zero’, ‘Heads Will Roll’, ‘Turn Into’ of note—did those around me seem to perk up, shifting from a bobbing of the head to a wiggling of the shoulders. Tellingly, upon the group’s rendition of ‘Subway’—arguably the most slow-tempoed song of the night—, audience members became restless, ignoring the poignancy and startling intimacy between O and Pajo, instead breaking out into chatter for most of the song’s duration. No better was the rapidity with which many audience members left after the band’s first encore (which included ‘Cheated Hearts’ followed by the sexually-charged ‘Tick’), only to tentatively return upon realizing there was still a second encore (‘Date with the Night’, disputably their song most indebted to the New York punk scene) to come.

This fault lies outside the realm of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ actual performance which was undoubtedly robust, engaging, and lively. Confetti shot out of cannons, Chase twirled his drumsticks, and O shoved her microphone down her pants, back out through a hole in the crotch, and into her mouth, the latter a trademark action of their shows for many years, now. Dressed in a hybrid outfit of glam (white sequined pants) and punk (a leather coat with ‘KO’ studded on the back), O commandeered the stage, and even off- as she beckoned front-row audience members to sing along to the bridge of ‘Cheated Hearts’. The setlist also proved impressive, the band offering five tracks from their 2013 release, Mosquito, combined with a nearly equal amount of material from their previous three albums. While most of their most well-known singles were played (‘Maps’, ‘Zero’, ‘Heads Will Roll’, ‘Gold Lion’ among them), the Yeahs offered up lesser-known choices (‘Black Tongue’, ‘Down Boy’, and even Mosquito’s hidden track) to balance the setlist with equal amounts of anticipation and surprise.

Sonically, the group further proved to be on point a decade on from their first LP release, A Fever to Tell, with Chase’s drums tuned to heighten the bass in particular, thus becoming just as much of a driving force as O’s show(wo)manship. In the night’s only other flaw, the sound mixing seemed a bit off at times, specifically during moments when O’s vocals were barely audible over Zinner’s crunching riffs or Chase’s booming percussion. The issue was not consistent from song-to-song, but popped up enough to become noticeable.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have long been known for their engaging, dynamic performances, the disparate personalities of the trio playing off one another in a manner that exudes pure fun. Outside of the fairly minor crowd and technical issues, the group proved to still exude confidence and, most significantly, lots of energy, even as they age into their mid-to-late thirties. It is this ageless quality of the core members which is perhaps the most impressive aspect of a group which continues to remain on the border between mainstream and the periphery of music culture. Let’s hope this longevity will grant us more tours in the future; Karen, meet Deborah Harry.

Just for fun, here’s a video of them performing “Maps” at that Kool Haus gig many years ago:

-Tim Nicodemo
Katuwapitiya.com Contributor

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Katuwapitiya.com's Top 25 Albums of the Decade

It’s list season! Lists everywhere about everything that you care/don’t-give-a-shit about! Honestly, I’ve had a lot of experience making lists. It does not shame me to admit that I used to make binders full of music countdowns as a child. Simple top-songs-of-the-moment lists, complete with fast-rising debuts and a weeks-on-chart column. That was before this decade. This decade, I decided to just listen and write about it at the end of 2009. So here we are. Surprisingly, Californication was actually released in 1999. I really had that pretty high on my list of the decade but I guess my memory isn’t as good as I thought it was. Hey, I was 13 at the time.

Katuwapitiya.com’s
Top 25 Albums of the Decade

25. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend

This album was like a breath of fresh air to the whole indie scene. A sound so fresh that it came to define an entire summer for me.
Favourites: “M79” and “Oxford Comma“.

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24. Death From Above 1979- You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine

This album grabs you and kicks you in the face multiple times and I love that.
Favourites: “Black History Month” and “Little Girl

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23. The Go! Team- Thunder, Lightning, Strike

How can I describe Thunder, Lightning, Strike? If life were a video game, all music would sound like this. Cheerleader hip-hop mixed with indie rock? Awesome.
Favourites: “Huddle Formation” and “The Power Is On

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22. Franz Ferdinand- Franz Ferdinand

Classic british indie rock.
Favourites: “Take Me Out” (of course) and “Jacqueline

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21. Sage Francis- Personal Journals

What I wish hip-hop would strive to be. Dark, poetic, beautiful, tragic.
Favourites: “Crack Pipes” and “Broken Wings

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20. Arctic Monkeys- Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

The original MySpace Cinderella story. Went from nothing to everything in a few months. A hell of an album.
Favourites: “A Certain Romance” and “Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But…

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19. Sufjan Stevens- Illinois

Sufjan’s masterpiece. With old folk tales and stories of horrifying criminals, Sufjan took us on a memorable journey.
Favourites: “Chicago” and “Casimir Pulaski Day

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18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Fever To Tell

Like DFA1979’s album, Fever To Tell kicks you in the face. However, this album had depth. One word: Maps.
Favourites: read previous sentence.

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17. Metric- Old World Underground, Where Are You Now

Take the depth of Fever To Tell and multiply it by a factor of 1.5. That is this album. Emily Haines shines.
Favourites: “Combat Baby” and “Hustle Rose

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16. The New Pornographers- Twin Cinema

To me, this is one of the defining albums of Canadian indie rock.
Favourites: “The Bleeding Heart Show” and “Stacked Crooked

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15. The Postal Service- Give Up

Give Up takes me back to my first year of university. We would share burned copies and would marvel at how cool it all sounded. Paired with the bips and bleeps were some great lyrics from Ben Gibbard.
Favourites: “Such Great Heights” and “Brand New Colony

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14. The National- Alligator

This album grows on you like a fine wine. Not everyone’s favourite but for me, the last third of Alligator cannot be beat.
Favourites: “City Middle” and “The Geese of Beverly Road

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13. OutKast- Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Does this need an explanation?
Favourites: “Hey Ya” and “Prototype

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12. Madvillain- Madvillainy

MF Doom and Madlib took hip hop and turned that shit upside-down and inside-out. So fresh, like nothing I had ever heard before.
Favourites: “ALL CAPS” and “Accordion

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11. Kanye West- The College Dropout

Not only did this put Kanye on the map, but it also did so much for artists like Mos Def and Common. Now I understand if you don’t like him and Imma let you finish but Kanye West had one of the best albums of this decade.
Favourites: “Two Words” and “Through The Wire

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10. The Killers- Hot Fuss

Nothing, and I mean nothing, gives me more nostalgia than blasting “Believe Me Natalie” and “Smile Like You Mean It” on my car stereo. Hot Fuss was that summer before university, hell, it was the summer after first year too.
Favourites: see above

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9. The White Stripes- Elephant

This album blew me away. It was like Rock in its prime. Rock as it should be.
Favourites: “Ball and Biscuit” and “Little Acorns

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8. Bloc Party- Silent Alarm

I have never listened to an album as many times consecutively as I have Silent Alarm. Period.
Favourites: “This Modern Love” and “Positive Tension

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7. Radiohead- Kid A

How does a band follow an album that is widely-regarded to be one of the best albums of all time (OK Computer)? Change your style completely and knock it out of the park!
Favourites: “The National Anthem” and “Motion Picture Soundtrack

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6. Arcade Fire- Funeral

A step above Twin Cinema, this took Canadian music as a whole to an entirely new level. Awe-inspiring.
Favourites: “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”, “Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)”, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”, “Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)”, “Wake Up”, “Rebellion (Lies)

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5. Kings of Leon- Aha Shake Heartbreak

Before they were all polished and pretty, Kings of Leon was a bunch of southern rockers with a weird-sounding lead-vocalist, nonsensical lyrics and awesome riffs. I miss that.
Favourites: “Taper Jean Girl” and “The Bucket

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4. Broken Social Scene- You Forgot It In People

I’ve talked a lot about defining Canadian albums. This BSS album took some of the most talented Canadian musicians out there and put them all together to make a masterpiece.
Favourites: “Almost Crimes” and “Cause = Time

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3. Iron & Wine- Our Endless Numbered Days

Some folksy dude singing a bunch of songs that all sound the same. And it’s fucking incredible.
Favourites: “Naked As We Came” and “Sunset Soon Forgotten

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2. The Strokes- Is This It

The album that introduced me to indie rock.
Favourites: “Is This It”, “Barely Legal”, “Someday”, “Last Nite”, “Hard To Explain

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1. Coldplay- Parachutes

Hard to believe that Coldplay didn’t exist before this decade. The biggest band in the world had its humble beginnings in Parachutes, released in 2000. Simple songs about love and the world. No Gwyneths, no weird baby names, no multi-million dollar tours, no sexiest vegetarian awards, no making trade fair, no apple commercials, no frills. Just an awkward-looking dude singing about a colour, walking on a beach as the sun rose. Wonder who’ll start from such beginnings next year?

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Honorable Mentions (a.k.a the reasons this list took so long):

Death Cab For Cutie- Transatlanticism, John Mayer- Continuum, The Shins- Chutes Too Narrow, D’angelo- Voodoo, OutKast- Stankonia, We Are Scientsts- With Love and Squalor, Coldplay- A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Amy Winehouse- Back To Black, Damien Rice- O, K-Os- Exit, The Strokes- Room on Fire, Feist- Let it Die, Stars- Set Yourself On Fire, All other Radiohead albums.

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Concert season in Toronto: Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Kool Haus (August 5, 2009)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Kool Haus

Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Kool Haus

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs put on the concert of the summer when they rocked the Kool Haus on August 5th. Karen O and Co. played the perfect mixture of hard-hitting older tunes and newer synthy greatness. Man, this is how concerts should be done. I love when bands can mix it up and not focus too much on their new material (yeah, I’m looking at you Yann Tiersen). Tracks like “Black Tongue” and “Y Control” spoke to me the most but “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” had the sold-out crowd jumping and flailing as well. The Kool Haus, the terrible venue that it is, had us all drenched in sweat very early on. But you know what? None of us cared.

Opener Amanda Blank didn’t really speak to me. Her hip-hop techno stylings reminded me a lot of Uffie (not a good thing) and I feel like a lot of her hype has to do with her look and collabos.

Karen O rocking with the crowd

Karen O rocking with the crowd

But the Yeah Yeah Yeahs definitely impressed. As good as their CDs are, I must say that they sound even better live. It’s hard to record such raw energy. Karen O even challenges Emily Haines for most electric leading lady…

Karen O ending the night

Karen O ending the night

I’ll wait until Metric’s Massey Hall show to give a verdict on that one….

Here is an acoustic version of Maps they played as an encore. I had to cut off the beginning because there was quite a loud roar when she started the song up. Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

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