(photo: Wikimedia Commons)
I might be alone here, but as much as I love Yeah Yeah Yeahs I found myself let down by Wednesday's performance at the Aragon (aka the worst venue in all the land). Yes, Karen O was amazing. Yes, the band played a couple of my favorite songs and a good selection from their new album. But really, that's where the praise ends. Here's why.
First off, the venue is just not welcoming to a band of their size and sound. No matter how hard the delicious and engaging Karen O smiled and made us jealous that she is basically the coolest woman on the planet, the venue betrayed her. Her voice sounded weak in the quieter tracks, including "Skeleton" which was an odd choice to subdue an overly eager crowd before the show barely got started. Putting in earplugs reduced the tinny sound of the guitar, but it didn't solve the vocal problems.
The set was really short, clocking in at barely an hour, and that, too, was a disappointment. The band's got three solid albums, a couple of excellent EPs, and some b-sides—why scrimp on the set time? They could have easily gone on a little earlier and played up to the 10:00 curfew (they ended at 9:51). The last time I saw YYYs, they played about 20 minutes longer although they were touring behind one fewer album and EP.
Granted, the hour we got was jam packed with Karen O giving us everything she's got. She's one of the best performers in music, and her smiles are infectious. Night after night, she really delivers the goods with sincerity when a lot of bands phone in their performances. You genuinely get the sense she's having a blast up there, and that part of the night was great. Of course, she displayed some of her signature moves like spraying her water high above her head like a fountain lion, and all but swallowed the microphone during the evening's encore of "Art Star."
But the setlist was odd right from the beginning with the down-tempo "Skeleton" and continuing with a heavy dose of 2006's Show Your Bones. Far and away their weakest release (note: I didn't say bad, by any means), they seemed to play a lot more of that and ignored their first EP along with the fantastic IS IS EP. The slower tracks didn't translate in the venue and hearing the audience struggle with a semi-unplugged "Maps" was even harder to take than Karen O struggling a little with those notes.
It's tough saying these things because I love this band. They are in constant rotation, among the most played artists in my collection. Maybe I'm too hard on them and should have just let it all go and jumped around to "Zero" and "Black Tongue" like everyone around me. Hey, that's a fair statement. But after knowing what the band is capable of, I just wanted to see so much more.