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Yeah Yeah Yeahs Live in Hollywood

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Palladium, Hollywood
October 1, 2006.

I was lucky enough to catch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs last night as they headlined the first show of their two-night stopover in Los Angeles, which once again earned its reputation as an early-to-bed-early-to-rise town. Both opening acts -- Amad Wasif and The Blood Brothers -- had already completed their sets when I arrived around 9pm. I know it’s a Sunday, but come on!

Shortly thereafter the Yeahs took the stage to a huge round of applause, and over the course of the next hour or so proceeded to blitz through a set that focused on their latest album, Show Your Bones, while leaving plenty of room for material from their earlier (and in my opinion far superior) album, Fever to Tell, as well as their brilliant self-titled EP.

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Karen O, the woman who's single-handedly responsible for launching the one-handed, black, fingerless motorcycle glove mini-trend of 2005, arrived on stage wearing a Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat-style hooded cape that dramatically obscured her face. She soon shed the cape to reveal a matching leotard, the whole outfit fringed with streamers and tattered ribbons that made her look like a Fellini-esque punk siren as she danced around the stage.

The band knows how to perform on a large stage, and their energy was infectious. Nick Zinner attacked his guitar with gusto as Brian Chase pounded his drum kit relentlessly. And for her part Karen O seemed suitably lead singer-ish, hissing and moaning into the mic, raucously thanking the L.A. crowd and generally amping up the arena-rock theatrics.

Some songs really shined: "Phenomena" with its dirty, grinding grooves, "Date With the Night" featuring Karen O yelping like a puppy over a cacophony of lurching drums and guitar and a beautiful acoustic version of the band's megahit "Maps." The Yeah Yeah Yeahs closed the set with the thunderously danceable "Y Control," and then returned for a brief encore, allowing the audience to decide on the final song ("Black Tongue" beat "Tick").

Unfortunately for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs their energy and determination were undercut by the Palladium's poor sound quality. The guitar and bass often bled together, drowning out Karen's voice, which varied between shrill and coarse on the rare occasions it was distinctly audible. It's evident the band doesn't have a wealth of material to draw from. Beyond that, they have trouble replicating the awesome sound of their albums in a live environment.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs played with a tremendous amount of energy and put on a solid show, but if they want to continue headlining venues like the Palladium and earn their recently bestowed title as Spin magazine's 14th Best Live Band Now (Surprise, surprise! They beat The Flaming Lips but fell short of Turbonegro), they're going to have to broaden their repertoire and refine their live appearances to more closely resemble their ferocious studio sound. Just being loud isn't enough.

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Co-written by Elina Shatkin.

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