Mere minutes after the traditional opening day fireworks finished lighting up the lakefront sky, punky indie rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs proceeded to light up the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage with a propulsive set that had the entire crowd screaming, well, yeah!
The New York City group – led by charismatic, growly lead singer Karen O – made its debut in 2003 with "Fever To Tell," featuring the hit song "Maps." The song made its way onto several "best of the decade" lists, as well as onto the hit video game "Rock Band."
Since then, the band has continued to thrive, especially Karen O, who made like many pop musicians – Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers – and joined the world of movies. This included composing the soundtrack to the film adaptation of "Where the Wild Things Are" and covering "Immigrant Song" for the creepy opening credit sequence in the American version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
The shriek-happy Karen O is clearly the main draw, and she doesn’t disappoint. She’s a high-energy lightning bolt on stage, getting the claps started early on the show’s opener "Sacrilege" – off of the band's latest album "Mosquito" – and pulling out a prop headlamp for the fourth number, "Under the Earth."
The music and the rest of the band really feeds off of her stage presence. She’s an exuberant, eclectic mix of glam rock fashion (she rocked a shiny, flamboyant cape for much of the show’s first act), Mick Jagger’s posturing struts and a punk rocker’s excitable aggression, especially when it comes to her mic. She swung the yellow-corded mic around like a ragdoll – eventually smashing it in "Date with the Night," the set’s encore –regularly pulled it taut like a garrote wire and shoved it down her throat for maximum scream volume.
Her deviously giddy smiles and on-stage charisma matched her rockin’ voice. Sometimes it woundedly soared, like on "Runaway." Other times, like on the moody hit love song "Maps," it haunted. And then there are her signature features: her staccato hehs and her viciously piercing yells, on display in "Cold Light" and "Pin." In the latter, the chorus sounded like a rapid fire of razor blades.
Her sharp voice continually cut through the throbbing, pulse-pounding music (the band rocks harder and rougher live than on their slightly more subdued albums). In fact, the only time it managed to tone her down was when her mic flat-out didn’t work for a few seconds of "Cheated Hearts."
Despite Karen O’s big personality, the rollicking pace didn’t leave much time for interaction. Karen O and company restlessly bounced from song to song without much stalling, save for some quick shout-outs before "Maps" and a short greeting before "Gold Lion" in which she stated it was Tuesday. She got the important part – the name of the city – right, though.
Trading small talk for a vigorous onslaught of rocking tunes, however, is a good deal any time, especially when the combination of band and star make for such a ferociously entertaining show. The 70-minute set continually built to its apex with the set closer "Heads Will Roll," another one of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ hits, slightly transformed into a vicious, snarling dance anthem.
Then there was the punkish encore, featuring dramatic pauses, swallowed and smashed mics, and shrieks that likely peeled the paint right off the Harleys tucked away on the back wall. Karen O came out for the song wearing a shiny paper crown, fitting considering she performed like rock royalty on opening night.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published July 24, 2015
At first glance, Ellington Ratliff may seem like the odd man in the pop rock band R5. He's the only one who's not a member of the Lynch family. He's the only one with a first name that doesn't begin with R (Riker, Rocky, Ross and Rydel make up the rest), and he's the only bandmate not born and raised in Colorado. Instead, Ratliff was born out in Los Angeles and split time in Wisconsin, making the band's Riverside gig Friday night a return of sorts.
Published July 23, 2015
If the last two days have proven anything, it's that Milwaukee will freaking lose their mind over the mere idea of a lion. At least, local movie fans Stephen Milek and Christopher Kai House certainly hope that is the case, as the two film buffs attempt to bring the notoriously insane 1981 thriller/borderline snuff film "Roar" to town.
Published July 22, 2015
Bookended by AJ Bombers and Water Street Brewery, Water Street is famous for three Bs: bars, burgers and bros. The tightly packed combination of those things has made the area a popular nighttime hot spot. Yet amongst all of the bars and clubs is something unexpected: A. Werner Silversmith, a buried treasure - quite literally considering its glass cases and shelves containing shimmering, beautifully repaired silver pieces - hiding in plain sight.
Published July 20, 2015
Brooklyn-based indie band Lazyeyes guitarist and singer Jason Abrishami has never been to Milwaukee - let alone any part of the Midwest really. He admits he hasn't even heard that much about the Cream City, but he'll learn about the city firsthand Wednesday night when the band and its shoegaze-laced dream rock makes its maiden trip to the city via a gig at The Mad Planet.
Published July 19, 2015
Tarsem Singh is a man who spent about four years and much of his own money traveling the globe's most outrageously beautiful locales in order to make his magnum opus "The Fall." So how'd he end up standing behind the camera of "Self/Less," an utterly anonymous and impact-free immortality action-thriller that - much like the fresh if not quite new bodies being peddled in the film - seems "alive only in the most basic sense"?
Published July 18, 2015
What if? It's two simple words, not even adding up 10 letters, but that seemingly innocent question has likely haunted every single person that's walked this planet at some point or another. And it's a question that fascinates Milwaukee native Cynthia Swanson, so much so that she made that idea the cornerstone for her debut novel, "The Bookseller."
Published July 17, 2015
Every band has at least a small group of devoted fans cheering it on and supporting it on its way to the spotlight. The retro "nu-wop" family band The Bronx Wanderers, coming to Festa Italiana this weekend, is no different - except some of those devoted fans just happen to be entertainment icons from their hometown neighborhood, including Dion DiMucci, Tony Orlando and Oscar-nominated actors Chazz Palminteri and Danny Aiello.
Published July 15, 2015
When Festa Italiana starts up this Friday at Henry Maier Festival Park, many will flock down to the lakefront to gulp down some real authentic Italian food and wine. Yet some of the most revered tastes of Italian culture coming to town this weekend are wholly inedible: the lovingly crafted and almost identical replicas of the country's most famous sites - this year including a 50-foot duplicate of the iconic Trevi Fountain.
Published July 12, 2015
Whenever some pop cultural hallmark gets a shiny new Hollywood remake or reboot, the Internet's response is always the same, to the point that you might as well give it its own key on the keyboard: "They're destroying my childhood!" In all cases, it's complete hyperbolic fanboy spazzing - all, except for maybe the case of "Terminator: Genisys" (the silly bonus y nicely echoing my main line of thought while watching the movie).
Published July 11, 2015
Channing Tatum must've heard your laments concerning the first "Magic Mike" film and brought most of the gang back together for "Magic Mike XXL," the best possible version of the sexy, silly male stripper movie audiences thought they were getting the first time though.