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Live Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Margaret Court Arena

21 July 2023 | 2:26 pm | Guido Farnell

It just feels so good to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing what they do best.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Credit: Ryley Clarke)

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LA girl group Automatic get the Thursday night started with a selection of electro-pop confection that kind of jumps to quirky rock and roll beats instead of the usual 808 stutters. Vocalist Izzy Glaudini exudes a sort of femme fatale person as she sings and plays keys trying hard to look a little bored by everything. Bass player Halle Saxon looks lost in the groove. Drummer Lola Dompé has an enthusiastic demeanour, and she takes our attention when dealing with the beats on an electronic drum kit and singing with vocoder effects on her voice. Her father played the drums for Bauhaus, but there is nothing remotely gothic about Automatic, who deal with somewhat bleak no-wave vibes that reflect the times.

Intriguingly, setting up the stage for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs involved white sage smudging. It had been a long nine years between releases for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Last year’s Cool It Down seemed to come from out of nowhere but brought with it a swathe of instantly likeable tunes. Health issues forced them to cancel this tour last year, but when they finally make it on stage, Karen O is clearly happy to be back down under.

Pre-show chit-chat with fans, aging hipsters who were flying their freak flag high, told us about the time the Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought their special brand of chaos and mayhem to Max Watts nee the HiFi Bar and Ballroom when they were here to showcase Fever To Tell. Hard to believe that was twenty years ago. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are not Sgt Peppers’ band, and tonight Karen O and her bandmates sucker punched the crowd with their music till they were KOed into submission.

Spitting Off The Edge Of The World made for a thrilling start on a set list plucked from firm favourites across the band’s five albums. There definitely was glitter on the wet streets of Melbourne this wintry evening. Karen O pushing her quirky glamour, took to the stage looking like a cheerleader for Team Glitter; sparkling at her very best, she indulged photographers and struck several poses just for them. Moving back in time, Cheated Hearts is followed by the guitar grind of Rich. A highly versatile band, they seamlessly flex between heavy indie/alternative guitar noise, punk attitude and feel-good disco rock, which pops.

It’s hard not to think of Blondie, who, also from New York, wanted to dance as much as they rocked. This kind of rock just never gets old. The ironic Art Star with apocalyptic screaming is hilarious. Burning, Zero, and Wolf delivered in quick succession to deliver precisely the kind of Yeah Yeah Yeahs kicks fans were after. Huge beach balls with eyeballs printed on them bounced about the arena. Nick Zinner took the obligatory photos of the crowd. He’s been doing that for years and must have quite a collection of these photos by now. Interestingly, Wolf brought to mind Crystal Castles. Much of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ newer material finds the band moving with the times to craft their sound for the 2020s.

It was a good time until the band stopped playing, and security were heard shouting, “You threw up; it’s your vomit. You are sick. Let’s go,” to which a fan who was perhaps having too good a time wailed, “Love you Karen” repeatedly. It was one of those situations where five or ten minutes felt like an eternity. The vibe the band had worked so hard to create felt a little broken.

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Karen O gazed upon the fan with empathy. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the rest of the crowd assembled at MCA waited patiently. Getting back to business but looking a little choked up, Karen O graciously said, “I’m sensitive. Love to you all”. While Lovebomb and Soft Shock would have been a mid-set slowdown, they served to build the vibe ahead of the thrills Maps and Heads Will Roll delivered.

Somewhere in there were killer versions of Sacrilege and Gold Lion too. As if the music wasn’t enough to satisfy, the wild strobe lights and pink ticker tape blasted across the arena and took fans to next-level ecstatic revelry.

The encores were all about the glory days of Fever To Tell. A collage of band photos from back in the day were projected behind them. Karen O, Brian Chase, and Nick Zinner delivered blistering versions of Y Control and Dare With The Night that saw older fans defying their age and getting down to pogo and bouncing their way through these tunes. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs delivered a gig with all the passion and intensity they could provide. The entire arena was wholly immersed in the joy of their music. It just feels so good to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing what they do best.