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 April 19, 2014
Gone is Jude Law's pretty regality; in "Dom Hemingway," the Brit looks rough, and he gleefully tearing into his profane lead role like an untamed wolf that just got its first taste of meat. For Law, it's a chance for him to let loose with a character like never really before. And he most certainly does, with big, audaciously compelling results. The rest of the movie, unfortunately, has a hard time getting on his level, but can you really blame it?
Published April 16, 2014
You never know where you might meet your future bandmates. Maybe you'll meet them through a mutual friend. Maybe it'll be a chance meeting in a railway station. Maybe you'll meet them half a world away. That certainly wasn't the case with Milwaukee rock outfit Commander Tang. In fact, George Phillips didn't even have to leave his front lawn or his Washington Heights block.
Published April 15, 2014
"Sabotage" finds Arnold Schwarzenegger briefly pushing his persona in a new direction. It's not simply that the film is unexpectedly more murder mystery than action thriller; "Sabotage" is easily the meanest, most vulgar and most violent movie on Arnold's resume. Credit where credit is due for trying something new, but considering the film's brainlessly scummy ugliness, it qualifies merely as a not-quite-noble failure.
Published April 15, 2014
Even though Corey Pieper's latest single "One More Time" isn't conventional Milwaukee, it's obvious the up-and-coming pop singer has love for his home city. The musician namedrops "the 414" near the beginning of the track, and the regional callouts - along with shout outs to his Hawaiian heritage - aren't merely for show.
Published April 14, 2014
When Wake Owl first arrived in town, they were at the bottom of a three-band bill at the Cactus Club with their freshly released debut EP, "Wild Country." Since then, their crowds and popularity have only grown, moving up to a $10 Pabst Pub gig last June and now a Friday night headliner gig at Turner Hall Ballroom. And instead of a five-song EP, Cameron and company arrive with a brand new full album, "The Private World of Paradise."
Published April 13, 2014
Much like the first movie, "Rio 2" is colorful and vibrant and cracks a few good jokes here or there. It's a generally enjoyable film, albeit one that feels like several animated features audiences have seen and forgotten long before.
Published April 11, 2014
"Draft Day" is an ad, less for the NFL Draft - though it is conveniently coming up in just a month - and more for the league itself. It's a hopeful attempt to get people to mindlessly consume a sport that's becoming more and more difficult to mindlessly consume. The mildly impressive thing is that, under "Ghostbusters" helmer Ivan Reitman's eye, the light, fluffy football trifle goes down almost as easily as designed.
Published April 9, 2014
Milwaukee got its first taste of TED last year with a TEDx conference - a local, self-organized talk event, run independently but guided from afar by TED - in Harambee. And now, thanks to some ambitious students at UWM, it seems the city will get a second taste of TED.
Published April 8, 2014
A small wooden and plastic model of a stage has now graduated into a full stage, lit with lights and bright, colorful, comic book influenced projections. Superglue will no longer be necessary to keep it together. Now, the stage merely waits for its actors, an audience and a story to unfold. That story is writer David Bar Katz's "The History of Invulnerability," the story of Jerry Siegel and his famous creation: Superman.
Published April 8, 2014
Edward Albee's one-act drama "Zoo Story" is a fairly small production. After all, it features merely two actors, one set - a park - and one necessary set item, a park bench. For the upcoming staging at Marquette University, however, director Grace DeWolffe is working with much more than merely two guys and a bench. In fact, she's got $1.5 million worth of technology to bring her show to life.