Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with Gris Gris & Lavender Diamond
at the Troubadour, March 4
On the eve of the Oscars, Angelenos had two options: botulism toxin injections and stomach-flattening colon hydrotherapy, or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Fortunately, my agenda involved the latter.
As I approached the oversold Troubadour with giddy nausea, I expected a mob scene. But I was shock-stricken to see that a shamefully sparse crowd had bothered to catch Lavender Diamond, the first of two opening bands. Lead singer Becky Stark was patently adorable in a white prom dress, blending her wry sarcasm with a satisfyingly saccharine stage presence. And if Lavender Diamond were a sweet, sad dollop of frosting, Gris Gris were more akin to French cuisine: of questionable pronunciation (say “gree-gree”), a complex mélange of sounds and an acquired taste for the unsophisticated palate. But they did an admirable job of crowd-warmage, working intently to churn out their fuzzy, distorted blanket of sound.
Finally at capacity, the crowd roared its welcome to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Singer Karen O is a legendary showman, and perhaps a pathological extrovert. Past witnessings have involved Miss O hosing herself with the gurgly downpour of a champagne bottle, spraying out a misty fountain of beer and spinning sweat sprinkles over front-row fans. Therefore, I approached Saturday’s gig — one of unusual intimacy — like a Gallagher show (comedian, not Oasis). No melon smashing, but I was prepared to come out of it a little messy.
Rather than Gallagher, we were served a vision of Dorothy Hamill on peyote. Sporting a glossy, immaculate mushroom cap of a hairdo, and a crotch-grazing silver jumper, Karen O spun in circles, brandishing an infectious Cheshire grin, and sometimes belting out her sex-laced yowls from behind the veil of a bath towel. Drummer Brian Chase and guitarist Nick Zinner, accompanied on this tour by Imaad Wasif of Alaska! on guitar and keys, diligently held down the quaking fort while Karen raised its roof. The set list opened with “Turn Into,” and continued to adhere mainly to new material off forthcoming release Show Your Bones. But Karen O, ever the people-pleaser, granted a few requests during the encore, and led the crowd in a chant of “Just this once!” before begrudgingly launching into oldies “Art Star” and “Date with the Night.” It was a night to remember, even without the watermelon stains — although I’ve seen the Yeah Yeah Yeahs offer wilder and better performances. I got the feeling they were saving the real show for Sunday night.