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 March 4, 2015
What's an early year PG-13 horror movie doing with such an overqualified and overall just plain odd cast? Too bad the actual movie itself isn't as surprising or unpredictable as its IMDB page, relying on the same tried and tired horror clichés, tropes and scares for success.
Published March 3, 2015
A funny thing - perhaps even a flipped-turned upside down thing - happened on the way to "Focus": The world fell out of love with Will Smith. The fairly small, R-rated con movie was never going to be the blockbuster to bring Smith firmly back up to sure thing box office status. What it does do, however, is quite nicely kill about two hours in sexy, sleek and breezily enjoyable fashion - a kind of Ocean's 6 or 7.
Published March 3, 2015
Rick Cleveland wishes America didn't want to watch "House of Cards." An interesting take - especially considering Cleveland wrote two episodes of the Netflix hit. However, for his latest work - the new play "Five Presidents," arriving at the Milwaukee Rep on March 10 - the tone lands a bit closer to Cleveland's other big political TV credit: "The West Wing."
Published March 1, 2015
It's been about 50 years since a bunch of bands made their way across the pond to America, sending the nation's teenagers into a tizzy - as well as their parents into a harrumph. Now, many of the figures from the era of the British Invasion - including Peter Asher, a renowned producer and the former half of the duo Peter & Gordon - are hitting the American road yet again for a 50th anniversary tour, coming to the Pabst Theater on Friday, March 6.
Published March 1, 2015
Rory Ferreira, aka Milo, has always been on the move. When he was a kid, he moved around a lot. Here, he moved up in the local rap scene, and with his name growing clout, he moved yet again - as many hopeful young artists do - to Los Angeles. And as many hopeful young artists do, he soon found the cold part of the industry. It became time to move again, back to the town he previously left: Milwaukee. So far, he's picking up right where he started.
Published Feb. 27, 2015
After a quarter of a century as Milwaukee music mainstays, Clamnation is coming to an end, bringing things to a grand close Friday night at the Nomad World Pub beginning at 9 p.m. There tends to be an assumption of the worst when band members go separate ways, but that's far from the case here.
Published Feb. 25, 2015
"The Lego Movie Sequel" made headlines yesterday announcing its newly appointed director: Rob Schrab, a veteran of TV shows like "The Mindy Project," "Children's Hospital" and, most notably, NBC's beloved cult hit "Community." He also wrote the indie hit comic book "Scud: The Disposable Assassin." Oh, and he's also from Wisconsin! Everything is local! Everything is cool when you're from Milwaukee!
Published Feb. 25, 2015
If you've kept an ear to the local music scene over the past year or two, the odds are good that you've heard about GGOOLLDD. The band hits the Company Brewing (the former Stonefly Brewery) stage on Saturday night as a part of Arte Para Todos. Before that, however, OnMilwaukee.com caught up with the group to learn more about Milwaukee's latest music obsession.
Published Feb. 24, 2015
In the war between honesty and artifice, "Still Alice" has a pretty phenomenal performance in the former's corner.
Published Feb. 22, 2015
In movies, time travel typically ends up in the hands of the decent or deserving. "Hot Tube Time Machine 2" proposes ... what if it didn't? What if, instead, it wound up in the depraved hands of a bunch of restrained man-child ids, who then proceeded to violate space, time and everyone and everything they ran into along the way? The answer? Some laughs, I guess. A good amount of silence too. Bags don't come much more mixed than this.