Yeasayer at First Avenue, 8/24/12
Photo By Erik Hess
First Avenue, Minneapolis
August 24, 2012
Brooklyn electro-poppers Yeasayer busted out a striking stage and light show and a rousing collection of songs both new and old for their spirited performance at First Avenue on Friday night. The group obviously feels a strong connection to Minneapolis, as this was impressively their eighth local show since 2007, and their dedicated fans dutifully packed the Mainroom and danced along to Yeasayer's textured, tribal rhythms and wildly infectious melodies throughout the band's energetic 80-minute set.
The group took to the stage with an electronic voice welcoming the crowd to the show, as a computerized greeting echoed over the PA, "Good evening, Minnesota. Minneapolis and St. Paul, let's make some love." Yeasayer switched up their set list just a bit for this show, opening with the expansive flourish of the Anand Wilder-led "Blue Paper" instead of the customary start of "Fragrant World" and "Henrietta," and that slight change gave the start of the show an immediate burst of dynamic energy before the band settled into the raw emotional throb of "Henrietta."
Chris Keating then took a moment to address the boisterous crowd, "Thank you, and now we're gonna play an old one." And with that the group launching into a soaring, triumphant rendition of "2080" that really ignited the set and the audience. That celebratory number sounded massive live, and featured some playful sonic flourishes from the band that rang out true on First Avenue's new sound system.
They only built on that momentum with a pulsing run through of their current single, "Longevity" from their just released new album Fragrant World, which is a bit departure for Yeasayer in both its mood and tone. The band's intricate stage set featured a bunch of diamond and triangle shaped mirrors, which stunningly reflected the lights around the club, and lit up blood red during "Longevity" to add to the song's atmospheric mood.
Photos By Erik Hess
Keating instructed Wilder to repeat the track's raucous rhythmic conclusion a number of times, saying, "Hit that one more time for the people of Minneapolis. Hit that one more time for St. Paul. Hit that one more time for this whole Minnesota thing we've got going on here." That only seemed to solidify the strong attachment between Yeasayer and their audience, and the set only got more festive from there.
The group really reworked the emphatic anthem of "O.N.E." by giving the track a more souled out restraint that added a mercurial edge to the number which didn't take anything away from its unbridled funkiness. It proved that the band isn't afraid to experiment with even their biggest hits, giving the songs an adventurous, experimental tone while still managing to move the crowd. The set dragged just a bit with a plodding version of "Don't Come Close," but that led to a smooth, seamless transition into "Madder Red," which featured rich Middle-Eastern rhythms generated by Yeasayer's new touring drummer Cale Parks which quickly snapped the set back to life.
The dark, moody electronic swell of "Demon Road" allowed the band to tinker with their sound while the backdrop and light show continued to augment their unconventional melodies. Keating again took a moment to warmly thank the crowd, "We've played Minneapolis so many times, both in this room and the small club next door, because you guys are always so much fun." And to thank us for our joyous support over the years, the band dusted off the euphoric "Wait For The Summer," which hasn't been played much on their recent tours. The whole crowd was clapping and dancing along to the song's ecstatic chorus, perhaps knowing that the summer we wait all year for is soon coming to an end.
Photos By Erik Hess
The set took another wrong turn with the meandering repetitiveness of "Reagan's Skeleton," which never coalesced at all. Keating then shared that he and the band took in some great sights earlier in the day at an (unnamed) art museum and Ax-Man Surplus on University (where he picked up some tchotchkes), and announced "We'll come back any time you'll have us" before the band dove into "Ambling Alp" which brought the main set to an exultant finish.
Yeasayer eased into their encore with the lush electronic flourishes of "Devil And The Deed," instead of "Fragrant World," which was on the set list but sadly went unplayed. "Tightrope" fully ignited the encore, and again found the band experimenting with a different sound, giving the familiar track a restrained Latin beat before it truly took flight during its bubbly conclusion.
Keating took one last opportunity to connect with the crowd, as well as taking a direct shot at a prominent indie tastemaker: "You guys have been great as always. We've just put out a new record that we're all pretty excited about. Pitchfork's not very excited about it, but fuck them." A peculiar, defiant version version of "Folk Hero Schtick" brought the night to a stirring close, proving that the bond between Yeasayer and their local audience here in Minneapolis won't be shaken any time soon, no matter what the haters have to say.
Personal Bias: I've seen Yeasayer play some pretty stellar shows over the years (the Varsity Theater and Triple Rock in 2008, and the Pitchfork Festival in '09), as well as a few duds (Rock The Garden in '09), but with the combination of the strong song choices and the stellar light show, this was definitely one of the better shows I've seen them put on.
The Crowd: A packed Friday night crowd that was clearly in the mood for some Yeasayer.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I feel like these lights could give me a seizure."
Random Notebook Dump: While most of the reviews of Fragrant World have been rather lukewarm, the innovative sonic chances that the band took on their new record really caught my ear, and for the most part these songs really took on an added depth and scope in a live setting.
Don't Come Close
Wait For The Summer
Devil And The Deed (Encore)
Folk Hero Schtick (Encore)
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