Yeah Yeah Yeahs - London Shepherds Bush Empire

...slipping out of grimy chic into something classier...
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The stage show for this new ‘It’s Blitz’ album tour would have been aptly named ‘It’s Glitz’. Swankier and with more bravado (and more glitter) than ever before, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have put some time and effort into their stagecraft. It pays off in the entertainment stakes, but Karen O’s sudden fondness for borrowed Freddie Mercury poses and cheap pyrotechnic glitter explosions is a little unexpected and a little beside the point compared to the rough-edged brilliance of all three of their albums.

Karen O appears on stage wearing a pair of colourful hot pants with waistcoat to match as the band eases into a slow number, ‘Runaway’. She holds the microphone aloft like a chalice as a giant eye bobs up at the back of the stage, glaring outwards – witness to the birth of new rock royalty. It’s an opening steeped in mock irony, but it’s still a sign of the band slipping out of grimy chic into something a bit classier.

Yet, the first tracks, for all the slickness of their presentation, don’t have that familiar oomph. After upping the ante with a couple of ‘Show Your Bones’ favourites, ‘Gold Lion and ‘Honeybear’, all their raw appeal comes flooding back for ‘Black Tongue’. “This is an old, old Yeah Yeah Yeahs song”, Karen explains, as Nick Zinner’s wiry frame contorts around his wailing guitar. The song descends into perfect, rock dissonance. It’s the highlight of the night and goes to show the old, scummy tunes still have most resonance.

The waves of noise continue as Karen O skips off stage to don a studded leather jacket. The reverb segues nicely into the next track, ‘Zero’. It’s a trick that’s repeated all night and it keeps the show rolling along like a well-oiled compilation album. Even in the few minutes before the encore there’s still background noise rumbling on after the last note of ‘Heads Will Roll’. No time for fuck ups, missed cues or awkward silences any more. This is a tour with a plan and a purpose.

Predictably, but fantastically, the encore features ‘Fever To Tell’ stompers, ‘Y Control’ and ‘Date With The Night’. It’s what we all came for, to feel at one with Karen O during her gawky, indie-punk rock outs. Her microphone worship and tai chi moves were entertaining, but Yeah Yeah Yeahs are more compelling than that. It’s in fighting out of a sweaty corner that they show their best side. The artful dissonance was enjoyable, but the moments of riot made the show.

Words: Jonny Ensall

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