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Karen O At Amoeba, Tuesday September 16th 2014

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Karen O & Moses Sumney

Have you listened to the new Karen O album? ‘Crush Songs’? I didn’t, but I think I will now. When I went to see her at Amoeba on Tuesday night, I had just heard one song, ‘Rapt’, which was posted on many music blogs and I had been kind of… err unimpressed? It was the kind of song that makes you listen, tilt your head on the right, then shrug before doing something else.

However Karen had attracted a huge crowd at Amoeba, oh I totally expected it but I couldn’t come before 4:30 pm, this is the best I can do on a weekday for a show starting at 6 pm!!! Every time, I wonder what all these people are doing for living, how are they able to wait a full afternoon on a sidewalk for a free show? So the line was very long when I arrived, stacked with young girls (and guys too) and their blue, green, purple, pink hair! Really, why this rainbow-hair craze suddenly? But yeah, Karen is very popular and colorful too, and she has sold out three shows at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles this week. After having seen her fronting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the FYF fest last year, I can’t say I was surprised to see this packed-to-the-ceiling store. Despite the bad view, people continue to come to these free shows… when there are many people, you are stuck to the back and when you are short like me, you can’t hardly see above the rows of CDs (although I now bring a small tool!)… nevertheless it’s always fun, except that this time Karen was not allowing pictures… what? Everybody has iPhones, you know that Karen, so it’s not really gonna work out.

Karen O appeared on stage wearing a summery, white and black outfit, and she was radiant… ‘it’s about fucking time’ she said meaning it took her forever to have her show at Amoeba. She was backed up by only two musicians and I was pleasantly surprised to recognize Moses Sumney on electric guitar — I have seen him several times and truly enjoyed his solo shows. He even gave the most soulful cover of a Radiohead song with Kan Wakan that I had ever heard, so I was happy to see him playing and beautifully harmonizing with Karen.

The show was short, too short, only five songs from her ‘Crush Songs’ album and these songs are very short, just 1 or 2 minutes long, so I empathize for all the people who had been waiting the whole afternoon for a 20-minute show. However these songs were filled with Karen O’ very special voice, sexy and fragile, vulnerable and delicate like a petal, and that she used like an intense whisper as if she was singing right in everyone’s ear. We got five songs, ‘Ooo’, ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Beast’, and of course ‘Rapt’ which was accompanied by some powerful crowd cheering at the ‘fucking bitch’ line. I must say that her voice harmonizing with Sumney’s sounded great, and the songs resonated like gentle and stripped-down-to-the-core lullabies, making the large crowd totally quiet…. Quiet to the point I could hear the sound that makes my camera when I take a picture, and remember, they had requested no pictures! I took a few, while spying on the guards who had never been so strict at this game, going through the rows of CDs and vinyl, telling people to put their phones away…

With no drums and only voices blending with delicate guitars, the trio gave to people what they wanted, judging by the respectful silence and the acclamation at the end. Karen has this special voice, making a throbbing plaintive sound able to make everyone hold its breath while she is almost giving up the ghost, and finishing by a cute sexy Betty Boop-like sigh. She disappeared during the last song, ‘Body’, I think she just knelt down during the freak out part of the song, then reappeared and it was over…All this was very cute and innocent, so stripped down it was barely songs, rather a long unique track delivering pure raw emotions for Spike Jones’ next movie.

A few pictures here.

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