Yeasayer - The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
A torrential downpour greets Yeasayer on the arrival of their Wolves debut, but the band transform The Slade Rooms into a sticky, sweaty mess to rival that of any trendy NYC hotspot. The Brooklyn-based band are one of the first big name bands to play the new venue, an extension of the city's longstanding Civic brand, and the blog-hyped trio put in a performance so justifiably cool that one almost forgets that images of Noddy Holder are scattered around the walls of the bar.
Since putting out debut All Hour Cymbals and touring with fellow New York psychedelics MGMT, the band has undergone something of a transformation. After collaborating with fellow youth culture faves Bat For Lashes and Simian Mobile Disco, they lost a member and self-produced a second album that didn't just flirt with the dancefloor but felt up her dress. Tonight balances material from both albums, making for an idiosyncratic setlist equal parts compelling and gosh darn funkay.
Opener Strange Reunion is a callback to the Middle Eastern-tinged flavour of earlier material, and quickly establishes a percussion-heavy stage setup that sees two fellows join the core trio in creating some beautiful noise. Arnaund Wilder takes the lead on this one but, throughout the night, singing duties alternate between the three, offering a range of vocal tones: bassist Ira Wolf Tuton is impassioned, Wilder provides laidback soul, and Chris Keating yelps and croons his way through his performance, twisting his gangly frame a la Ian Curtis and proving a charismatic focal point whenever he's in charge. The obvious ensemble nature of the effort is part of the charm though, and means that it's hard to pinpoint any sort of mid-set lull; just when you think it might be time to go to the bar, Keating is singing through some sort of vocal distortion gadget and riding the dark wave of The Children, the intro to Odd Blood suddenly sounding very much like 'evil dance music' (quote/unquote, my gig buddy Stef).
It's probably a safe assumption that the majority of the respectable numbers in the audience are here because of the band's new dance-oriented sound. At times, I find myself wishing it wasn't Wednesday at 9pm and that instead I was in the same dingy room but at 1am on a Saturday morning: surely that's the best stamp of approval for a band who don't lose the interest of the back row even when they're throwing album number one's less hook-driven wigouts at us. New single Madder Red is evidence that the new material still has depth, a blistering performance wringing out the drama of this mini-epic, all shaman-like chants, propulsive drums and moody red lighting (take note Klaxons, ye of the disappointing return).
The biggest reception is reserved for the new album's beat-driven numbers though, taking the twisted grooves of All Hour Cymbals and shaping them into something resembling Pop. Mondegreen and the euphoric rush of closer Ambling Alp are highlights, and remarkably tight considering the amount of musical layers being created on stage: on top of traditional instruments, all sorts of sci-fi lookin' knobs are being twiddled. However, it's the joyous pop strut of O.N.E. that stands out like a flamboyant thumb that you just wanna suck 'til it bleeds. Marrying a giant synth-enthralled chorus with calypso drums, this o.n.e. is proof that Yeasayer are looking beyond the boundaries of Brooklyn and the blogosphere and up into the skies; how it hasn't dented the charts and become their Kids or Over and Over, I will never know. Take only one thing from this review: don't say no to Yeasayer.