Concert Reviews

Live Review: Yeasayer, Smith Westerns at the Music Box in Hollywood (5/24)

on May 27, 2011, 4:46pm

Aside from a pre-album surprise show at the Natural History Museum and a late afternoon slot at Coachella 2010, Yeasayer somehow managed to leave Southern California out of their Odd Blood tour dates. They returned this week for two packed nights at the Music Box in Hollywood, giving their Los Angeles fans a bit of what they missed, as well as quite a bit of what’s to come, debuting three songs off of their yet-to-be-titled third LP.

Opener no. 1 was listed as Hush Hush and at around nine, as the crowd was still filing in, a bearded, tuxedoed fellow stumbled onstage alone looking a bit lost. Judging by his fairly untamed beard, I half-expected a folk band to follow him out onstage but was pleasantly surprised at the R&B that came blaring out when he pressed play on an audio unit to his right–and was even more so when he started to belt along to them. The Berlin-based performer sounded at times like Chris Keating gone wild, crooning and dancing about to his bumping sex-jam backing tracks (the especially lurid “Sex Party” would’ve no doubt made Prince, who was playing right down the road at the House of Blues, blush), all while slowly–and not so seductively–removing his his suit. By the end of his set, which lasted a good six or seven songs, he was almost without a shirt and had managed to at least get the reluctant crowd moving.

The Smith Westerns took the stage not long after to play selections from their great, CoS-approved debut, Dye It Blonde. The Chicago five-piece’s set was very well-received, especially on the album’s buzzing singles “All Die Young” and “Weekend”. Their brand of glam-flecked garage pop was a good fit for the tour with Yeasayer, as the band proved perfectly capable of playing their songs in a live setting, nailing the album’s lovely harmonies and showy little instrumental bits with an ease that’s surprising for a band of their tender age. They exited about 15 minutes too early to raucous applause, leaving no doubt that the next time they come through town, it’ll be atop a bill of their own.

Yeasayer finally took the stage to the tune of the industrial clanking that heralds the start of “The Children”, Odd Blood‘s odd opening track. The five-piece jammed a bit before breaking into the tribal cadence of “Sunrise”. One of the Brooklyn outfit’s most intriguing traits is how deftly they tiptoe the fine line between pop and experimental music. While their music has always been a bit strange, Odd Blood was a big step in a markedly conventional direction, seeing them ditch some of All Hour Cymbals‘ spacier elements for a more streamlined, electronics-heavy sound, while maintaining almost all of what made them one of the most intriguing acts in the world when they burst onto the scene back in 2007. “Rome” and “Mondegreen”, both funky synth-pop tracks off of Yeasayer’s last LP, which had a bit too much going on on record, sounded much improved in the live setting with their loose electro-funk grooves toned down just a notch. Set highpoint “Grizelda”, the gorgeous album closer of Odd Blood, gave multi-instrumentalist wonder Anand Wilder a chance to showcase his exceptional pipes.

Even the tracks off of their forthcoming third album sounded like some strange otherworldly brand of pop music; namely “Henrietta”, which, when sandwiched between “Tightrope'”s carefree rhythms and the buoyant synth-pop of “ONE”, sounded like an ’80s freeway jam beamed in from some strange parallel universe. “Demon Road”, which was debuted at the start of their encore, employed a similarly freaky synth line over dub rhythms courtesy of the band’s incredible two-man drum section: Ahmad Gallab and Jason Trammell. “Demon Road” was received very well by the packed house, as were the rest of the new tracks the band debuted; but little could’ve bettered the cheers that greeted the chiming guitar line that marked the start of fan favorite “2080”, which ended the all-too-short, albeit sweet, set. Here’s hoping they’ll be back in town soon and with a lot more new material to boot.

Photography by Marcello Ambriz.

Setlist:
Sunrise
Tightrope
Henrietta
ONE
Mondegreen
Devil and the Deed
Rome
Wait for the Summer
Grizelda
Madder Red
Ambling Alp
encore

Demon Road
2080

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