You will never see someone so happy to be where they belong as you will when Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O commands a stage.
“DC! We are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs!” Karen O called out to the audience at their recent sold-out show at The Anthem — a concert that launched a 13-date USA tour that stretches through June 10. It had been 10 years since the Yeah Yeahs last appeared in the National Capital Region — for a festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The year after, the band went on hiatus for roughly three years.
And now, Karen O was positively giddy to be back. She smiled, strutted, and danced her way through an exhilarating set of Yeah Yeah Yeahs tunes that thrilled an audience ready to welcome her to town.
Before the tour, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs first pleased the listening public with a release of a fifth studio album back in September (their first studio record in nine years) — Cool It Down, published by Secretly Canadian. At The Anthem on May 3, the band played four songs from the new effort, opening the show with “Spitting Off the Edge of the Word” and hitting other Cool It Down numbers in the first half of the set.
The winning album of the night, however, was the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s debut record, Fever to Tell, appropriately enough. The band first reunited after several years apart to master a special edition of the album in 2017. Karen O and company performed a few shows around that time and soon after, and those performances clearly snowballed into this post-pandemic touring wildcat that we know happily have on our hands.
Fever to Tell celebrates 20 years in 2023, and while that hardly seemed possible, Karen didn’t want to slow down to appreciate it. She wanted instead to stomp and snarl her way through a performance of “Rich” from the album under flashing red strobes, and so she did. A confetti explosion spilled paper butterflies across the stage, and Karen danced through them. She then made a show of putting the bulb of her microphone wholly in her mouth and holding it there, her head definitely cocked back in preparation to spit the mic into the sky.
Karen then paused to acknowledge the anniversary of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s first record, and then she rolled into a “deeper cut,” “Pin.” This quieter moment of course demonstrated the range of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Drummer Brian Chase seemed like a mystic guru on his kit above the fray, tapping out the time. Guitarist Nick Zinner shined with equal mystic might from Karen’s left. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs then rode a big groove and got a bit funky with “Burning” from Cool It Down.
Watch the official music video for “Burning” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on YouTube:
Soon, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs inject their fourth studio album, It’s Blitz, into the mix with “Zero” and a few songs later “Soft Shock.” The entire room was dancing and singing along to the album’s “Heads Will Roll” when the band later joyously closed the main set with the song. Her voice still clear and strong, Karen galloped along as she commanded everyone in earshot to “dance, dance, dance ’til you’re dead.”
The encore was again all about Fever to Tell — and two of the best-ever songs by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — “Y Control” and “Date With the Night.” The crowd cheered hard for the lyrically brilliant “Y Control,” an ode to growing older and gaining wisdom with regard to the opposite sex. Karen paced the stage and emoted the song to the front rows through her hands. Whereas “Y Control” was somewhat measured, “Date With the Night” was a full-burn banger that gave the Yeah Yeah Yeahs permission to rage across the stage.
Watch the official music video for “Y Control” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on YouTube:
Karen O’s apparently homemade concert outfit epitomized her gleeful abandon. It was a patchwork of colors, and she wore a bicycle helmet (perhaps?) with a raccoon tale and spikes glued to it. Her fringed cape looked to be mounted on her shoulders with soda cans. She wore a large chain necklace with colossal “KO” initials hanging from it. From pictures that I have seen, Karen has been varying her outfit from show to show, but it’s always a rainbow burst of colorful checkers.
Welcome back to where you belong, Yeah Yeah Yeahs!
Here are some images of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performing at The Anthem in DC on May 3, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.