There’s one word to describe Karen O & the Yeah Yeah Yeahs: intriguing. Last night, at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, the New York trio kicked off its summer tour by keeping things exciting and, naturally, full of energy. Karen O teased the crowd with every scream, all in her own stylish and unusual way. The rainstorm outside locked everyone indoors, and despite the building’s intense heat, those on the floor danced, swayed and jumped about — all in one exhausting sea of “hip.”
A little history lesson, shall we? The Aragon Ballroom has been in existence for nearly a hundred years. It first played a role for the Windy City by hosting many dance parties and performances during the late ’20s and ’30s. Thirty years later, however, the Ballroom, thanks to new management, hosted mega rock concerts throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, including names like AC/DC, The Byrds and B.B. King. Today, the venue continues to please, hosting a mixture of both dance and rock concerts alike. For those that have never been, it’s set up quite delicately, with the concert hall and stage tucked away upstairs. Concertgoers can flood the main floor and the balcony above, where there’s some select seating areas. Its wide and vacuous main floor can easily host 4-5k comfortably. But by far the most unusual and compelling feature about the Aragon is its roof, a magnificent painting of a night sky, which sparkles, too.
People weren’t there for the Aragon, though. In fact, the show had recently been moved there from the nearby Riviera, as the demanding and sweltering fan base required a much larger venue. With that in mind, you can imagine the excited, amassing crowd, waiting in anticipation for the main event. Their buzzing energy didn’t mix well with David Pajo’s solo set; however, San Diego’s Grand Ole Party turned it up a notch, and kept the crowd in check. It helps to have a front woman in a band, though singer Kristin Gundred is more than just a woman. Throughout the frenetic opening performance, her voice remained powerful and well connected with the rest of the music they played.
Though, most will argue that she can’t hold a candle to Karen O — actually, probably everyone in the crowd last night. As the decked out East Coast princess took the stage, the sweaty fans went AWOL as they finally could enjoy the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. By this time, the Aragon was crowded and packed, probably ten or twenty tickets from selling out. Once the band jettisoned into two or three songs, it became clear that Karen O is not only a singer, but a damn fine entertainer, too. Her energy, along with the bands’, is a strong harbinger of things to come. There’s an invested potential that lie within the three here. That much seemed obvious within fifteen minutes of them playing.
While the band is supporting their recent effort, It’s Blitz!, the set list sported some former classics off of Fever to Tell and Show Your Bones. The “O”-Team played an acoustic version of “Maps” (video below), which is sure not to be missed on the rest of the tour, as well as hits like “Gold Lion”, “Y Control”, and of course, “Zero”. Fan favorites “Date with the Night”, “Heads will Roll”, and “Honeybear” only brought out a monumental hurricane; not outside the venue’s walls, despite the rain, but within.
Some may complain they’re festival whores, as they’re hitting the festival circuit pretty hard this summer, but there’s a good reason for that. If last night’s tour opener is evidence, then the static from both the crowd and the band proved that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are not only a must-see act, but a must-see experience. Start planning.
All photo and video support by Art Pena.
Human Fly (Cramps cover)
Heads Will Roll
Date With the Night