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Yeah Yeah Yeahs At The Hollywood Bowl, Thursday, October 6th, 2022

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O

“This is the most beautiful place you can play in the world,” said Karen O just before singing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most famous song, “Maps”. It was a comeback night for the NYC indie band, in support of their new album, “Cool It Down,” their first release in nine years. On Thursday night, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were headlining the Hollywood Bowl, and the famous singer was not wrong: I would even say that standing front row in the pit at the Hollywood Bowl feels like standing at the top of the world, thus buying a pit ticket at the last minute turned out to be a very good idea for an exceptional and historical night. As Karen O noted it, later on, it was likely the first time that several Asian American women were headlining the Bowl, “That is something I tell you,” she screamed with jubilation, “I have been waiting my whole life to say we got three generations of Asian American women who rock, it’s our time baby!”

The night started with the very young all-girl band The Linda Lindas, whose members’ respective ages are only 17, 14, 13, and 11 for the drummer! They took the stage with plenty of confidence, looking like little punk goddesses with their pastel-colored guitars and their oversized matching suits, and I remember saying to myself… I know how they got this gig! They effectively didn’t leave the stage without acknowledging the night that changed their life: they met Karen O during Girlschool LA, a memorable event organized at the Bootleg Theatre in 2018, where the girls played with Dum Dum Girls’ Kristin Kontrol along with Bobb and Bethany from Best Coast and Karen O. However, they kept the talking to the minimum and played their pop-punk songs from their debut album “Growing Up,” with all the right moves. It was teenager angst with touches of the Ramones, Shonen Knife or the Go Go’s, straightforward hooks, and serious injections of punk delivery when bassist Eloise Wong was behind the mic: that little girl has some remarkable sludgy snarl! Despite being underage, they told us to go vote with a song simply entitled “Vote!” then they spat their now-famous piece, “Racist, Sexist Boy,” and made the crowd participate with a surprising commanding tone as if they wanted to make sure we had understood that they were the future of punk. They are headlining their own show at the Fonda in December, so what better things could possibly happen to the Linda Lindas? They are young and already at the top.

Japanese Breakfast followed with a set of songs off her last album “Jubilee,” like the sweet and catchy “Paprika,” accompanying herself with a giant Bong, as well as a moody saxophone in the background. In interviews, Michelle Zauner declared that this new album would be a celebration of joy after years of writing about grief – she lost her mother to cancer in 2014. She certainly exulted this exact feeling on stage, with a large smile that never left her face and gracious moves whether she was dancing and bouncing with a mic in one hand or playing guitar. With an Empire-Strike-Back-Princess-Leia-inspired hairdo (but she is probably too young for this one), a sexy shiny green turquoise outfit, glitter makeup all over her eyes, and black boots above her knees, she looked so happy and so adorable that everyone was under her charm. Zauner can have the sweetest voice ever, but this doesn’t mean she wasn’t fierce, as many of her songs oscillated between memorable hooks and bittersweet melancholia. The saxophone gave an ‘80s retro vibe while the full orchestration with strings, keys, and many chords felt layered and ambitious, exceeding the usual shoegaze or dream pop of indie bands. From ethereal saxo-electro-pop to more guitar-driven numbers, it would certainly be difficult to assimilate her to a specific genre, and after the ecstatic “Everybody Wants to Love You,” the band treated us with an extended jam at the end of “Diving Women,” which started like A War on Drugs moment but stretched into reverb psychedelia with wild saxophone.

Setlist
Paprika
Be Sweet
In Heaven
Kokomo, IN
Road Head
Savage Good Boy
The Body Is a Blade
Posing in Bondage
Slide Tackle
Everybody Wants to Love You
Diving Woman

The queen of the night was certainly Karen O, but she first appeared with another self-proclaimed queen, Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius, whose angelic high-pitch voice perfectly completed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman’s rich tones during the duo, “Spitting Off The Edge Of The World.” It was a nice surprise and a relatively mellow start to launch an otherwise high-energy show. Although she can get away with anything fashion-wise, Karen O almost looked encumbered under an oversized umbrella rainbow hat and a matching cape, that she soon peeled off after she was done with the first song. With her giant leather pants, she had the entire bowl at the top of her signature pink glove for 17 songs, while the space had largely cleaned up, leaving the stage wide open for her antics.

She screamed, snarled, laughed, bounced, jumped, shook her head many times, swallowed her mic, while the rest of the band mostly stayed in the background. The energy on stage was matching the crowd’s enthusiasm while making Karen O the star of the show. She is just an extremely charismatic performer, always on the move, always statuesque, so that you could not detach your eyes from her, especially during the hits and the catchiest (old or new) songs, such as “Under the Earth,” “Burning,” “Zero,” “Gold Lion,” “Y Control,” “Heads Will Roll,” and of course “Maps”… could the Yeah Yeah Yeahs even play a show without this one?

However, the musicianship behind Karen O’s restless presence relied on Nick Zinner’s magnificent work on guitar, and Brian Chase’s elegant drumming, completed by Imaad Wasif‘s transcendental keys and chords. It was teamwork from start to finish, and out of the three, Brian Chase may have been the more visible, as he was sometimes standing up above his drums, pointing his drumstick to the crowd. During the new tune “Burning” which exploded with a cinematic grandeur in front of visions of furious seas and volcanic explosions on the stage screen, Karen decided to walk on the edge of the wall limiting the pool/pit, getting closer to the gigantic crowd of the Bowl.

Despite a few slower moments dragging a bit during new songs I was not familiar with yet (and they only did one song from “Mosquito”), this was probably one of the best live shows I have experienced lately. There was a false start (“Gold Lion”) with Karen’s laugh and some wild participation from the crowd for the ooo-ooos, while the band unleashed more fury with “Heads Will Roll.” The accent was made on the fun as giant eyeballs danced over the crowd during “Zero” and Y-shaped pink confetti were raining over our heads during the grand finale, “Date with the Night.” There’s no doubt that standing in the pool made everything a million times more enjoyable than watching the show from one of these nosebleed bench seats.

Karen O also saluted two rock goddesses who were in attendance, Shirley Manson, and did I hear “Kim Wilde”? Everyone around me was screaming, but this would make sense since, for their encore performance, she brought out The Linda Lindas and Japanese Breakfast for a triumphant cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America.”

It was a victorious return to the stage for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with microphones smashing under an avalanche of pink confetti: the night had joyful celebration written all over it, with a few moments of darkness and the immutable presence of Karen O, transcending genres and styles, re-affirming her rock star of a generation status.

Setlist
Spitting Off the Edge of the World (with Perfume Genius)
Cheated Hearts
Pin
Under the Earth
Burning
Zero
Wolf
Fleez
Soft Shock
Lovebomb
Blacktop
Maps
Gold Lion
Y Control
Heads Will Roll

Encore:
Kids in America (Kim Wilde cover with Japanese Breakfast and The Linda Lindas)
Date With the Night

 

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