The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Birmingham O2 Academy (09/12/2009)

Michael Shelton | Friday, 11 December 2009

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Birmingham O2 Academy (09/12/2009)

2009 has been an annus mirabilis for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Switching from their punk roots to an electronica-led, disco-infused sound could have spelled disaster. Instead the New York trio have converted a whole new legion of support and easily sold out the heaving O2 Academy.

The Birmingham venue has seen a location change and its baroque feel combined with a huge 3D eyeball dominating the stage made the place feel more New York than West Midlands. Despite Nick Zimmer's brilliance and versatility this often felt like a one woman show. Karen O waltzed onto stage wearing a cacophony of colours. The Show was imminent.

The band had no trouble switching album genres as 'Phenomenon' segued into 'Heads Will Roll'. With an explosion of confetti and the yell of "Off with your head, dance till you dead", the venue roared into life. It seemed the crowd had taken the lyric a little too literally as one teenager was bordering unconsciousness by the end of the song.

'Cheated Hearts' developed to an impromptu singalong with the front row while 'Skeletons' was given a pagan feel with Karen emerging dressed like a Druid Princess with a shroud covering her face and body. It nicely complemented the Gaelic feel of the song.

With its mellow opening detonating into the refrain "we sing the nightmares of the lies that we speak", 'Dull Life' is ready made for live shows. There was a danger there that the bar may have been set too high. They cleared it easily with perfectly regulated moments for the crowd to get their breaths back in amongst the joyous mayhem.

As the opening bars of 'Zero' burst into life Karen donned a leather jacket and went from looking like Kate Bush to Suzi Quatro. Synergising with the lyrics "so get your leather, leather, leather, on, on, on", she gave the impression that their latest album It's Blitz, rather than a huge change in direction, was actually a natural evolution.

The show concluded at a gentler pace with an intimate version of 'Maps' from their 2003 album Fever to Tell. Even those who weren't fans back then were soon converted, casting doubts on the naysayers who criticised Karen for having a narrow vocal range.

A top class night out in a much-improved venue, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs came to Birmingham – they saw and they conquered.

Rating: 5/5

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