Review | Yeasayer @ Vic Theater Chicago
Ok, so that opening band was a trip right? Sounding like an odd musical pastiche of goth, techno and chill wave performed by a slick-haired and mustachioed frontman impersonating Brad Roberts of the Crash Test Dummies, Daughn Gibson's music confounded me. Self-categorized as country, you could tell dude listened to a lot of Johnny Cash, it was like he'd taken that American bravado and wrapped it in an Active Child context. Possibly a case of irony gone too far, I couldn't tell if he was being serious and we shouldn't be laughing, if he was being funny and we forgot to laugh or if possibly he and the lone pianist that joined him on stage weren't quite sure themselves. Either way, it was something I'd rather talk about than be forced to listen to. Oh well, his set was short and, well, interesting.
The main event at Chicago's Vic Theater last night was clearly Brooklyn psych-folk-synth-dance quartet Yeasayer. The first night of the band's 2012 tour for its third LP, Fragrant World (stream), those of us there bore witness to the debut of a new stage show and much of the new material—Chris Keating and company played a full two-thirds of the new record. With six convex mirrors shaped like upside down Chrysler logos stacked two high and three wide as a backdrop, Yeasayer has dramatically upped the visual element of its show. An array of lights shot solid beams of purples, blues, yellows, reds, greens, oranges and whites—ok, so the rainbow basically—out at the crowd, while mirror balls at the band members' feet shot rays of light in every other direction.
A computerized announcer introduced the band and welcomed its Chicago audience, before decaying into a cacophony of chatter and the opening chords of "Fragrant World," the band's Middle-Eastern-y psych-pop set opener. Little concerned with the audience's familiarity with the new songs—the album's only been out since Tuesday after all—Yeasayer followed with its latest single, the brilliant slow burner "Henrietta," before jumping all the way back to All Hour Cymbals with "2080." That finally unglued the crowds feet. Laying out the night's biggest crowd pleasers, "O.N.E." and "Madder Red" fairly early on, they then settled into more new material as acid trip visuals oozed in and out of the mirrors behind them.
Fragrant World takes a few more listens to get into then Odd Blood did, but hearing songs like "Reagan's Skeleton" and encore selections "Folk Hero Schtick" and "Fingers Never Bleed" live opened my eyes and ears to the new stuff. Showmen and musicians who aren't afraid to reinterpret their own material to keep it fresh, both for them and for us, the group ended on an extra-trippy version of "Tightrope." Like the song's name implies, it was a risky move that left some wanting more, but maybe that was the plan the entire time.
—Joshua P. Ferguson
DOWNLOAD: Yeasayer "Henrietta" | 320 mp3