New York has been good to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- and in their decade-plus run, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been good to New York. On Sunday night (Apr. 7), last month's Billboard cover stars treated a hometown crowd at the 1500-capacity Webster Hall to an early taste of their latest studio offering, the macabre, atmospheric "Mosquito."
The packed venue has long been part of the band's home turf, and frontwoman Karen O acted accordingly, with the words "Webster Hall" leaving her lips enthusiastically at least three times during the opening minutes. With new tracks from "Mosquito" (due April 16 on Interscope) hardly road-tested, the atmosphere was one of a seasoned band toying with new ideas in front of old friends -- the type you don't mind messing up around.
"Shit! I forgot my cue; can we start it over?" the singer pleaded following the opening notes of "Wedding Song," the pensive, devotional closer to "Mosquito." The response? A rousing round of applause. "So profesh," she quipped before resorting right back to her typical seen-it-all punk swagger.
Style-wise, Karen O stuck to a golden yellow jacket and shorts set, punctuated by a series of glittering capes and song-specific accessories like a miner's headlamp for the subterranean "Under the Earth."
Along with guitarist/keyboardist Nick Zinner, drummer Brian Chase, and multi-instrumentalist David Pajo, the YYYs broke out six new songs, including lead single "Sacrilege," regrettably without the gospel choir that accompanied it on Friday night's "Letterman" performance. But the Webster Hall show wasn't simply treated as a chance to tinker with new songs. Veterans of the early 2000s New York garage scene, the YYYs often paid homage to the gritty beginnings of their back catalog. Both of their encore songs, "Maps" and "Date with the Night," came from their 2003 debut "Fever to Tell," and "Miles Away," a rough punk track from their first EP, made its way into the set list. "Heads Will Roll," from 2009's "It's Blitz!" got the warmest reception from the crowd, and also inspired the night's standout performance.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are comfortable with their past, and they're still maturing. Early in the band's history, a Yeah Yeah Yeahs show meant frequent brushes with catastrophe from a more reckless Karen O -- who once nearly died after falling headfirst off a stage and careening into a guardrail in Sydney, Australia. These days, the 34-year old singer's attitude is more manifested in her eclectic song and wardrobe choices than self-destruction. And that's just fine, as the Webster Hall gig reminded New Yorkers how entertaining it is to have these guys around.
Here's the set list from last night's show:
Under the Earth
Heads Will Roll
Date with the Night