By Erika Firestone
PHILADELPHIA — Illuminated by the presence of the Ben Franklin Bridge, Festival Pier lit up on a chilly Tuesday night as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs took the stage. Punk rock infused with the glamour of sophisticated pop, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have collected an assortment of fans who flock to their shows of any price like Deadheads to the Grateful Dead and its offshoots.
On Sept, 17, this eclectic fanbase surrounded the River Stage in Philadelphia for a raw and uninhibited performance from the entire band. However, lead vocalist Karen O is the heart, soul and middle finger of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Full of energy, spunk and pure feminine rock and roll talent, she is a glorious reminder of the beauty and excitement of live music.
Bursting onto the stage in bright colors before a proper introduction or glimpse of an opening song, Karen O came out in an outfit only she can pull off in front of a large crowd. Fully clothed in a shiny pink Elvis-like cape with matching flare pants, her presence immediately demands attention. She maintains this authority throughout the entire performance, deserving every ring of applause, from stage kicks, groove-fueled dance moves and the peak of vocal shouts and screeches that come across as about as rock and roll as it gets today. Moving quirkily but gracefully across the stage, all eyes were on Karen O — although the band behind her did an excellent job of rocking out. Drummer Brian Chase sent each beat resonating through the crowd and wore a ski mask during a few of the songs. Together, the band provided the wholesome sound of the kind of live music experience where the band gets each other, playing together and feeling each other out almost flawlessly.
Opening with “Slave,” shivers crawled down spines. Making their way through a 14-song setlist, the energy level never left; it actually progressed throughout the show, including songs “Phenomena,” “Cheated Hearts” and “Turn Into “, climaxing during the final song (pre-encore, of course) “Heads Will Roll.” After Karen O spit out the last note, half hanging off the stage and back touching the ground, not a soul dared to leave, because who would miss an encore after a set like that?
Inevitably, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sprung back on stage and right into “Maps,” one of their most popular tunes. The crowd reached its highest volume, shouting, “Wait, they don’t love you like I do.” The band ended the performance with “Date Night with You,” sending the last sounds across the river to Camden.
Truly an inspiring night, bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs prove that live music isn’t just the ability to sing the songs released on an album and sound sort of like it. From the outfits, to the dance moves, to the lighting effects, to the full participation and enjoyment of every band member on stage, to the eccentricity flowing from Karen O’s body and voice, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs reinforce the fact that live music is an art form, through which they paint an eccentric portrait of what it means to bring music to life.