It’s been a year since Yeasayer last visited the 930 Club, in promotion of their latest album Odd Blood. Since then, word spread about their solid live show, and tickets for Thursday night’s show sold out months in advance. They came to DC as part of a short tour to road-test some new songs for their next album – another batch of funky, 80s-pop-influenced tracks with catchy melodies and weird instrumentation. Also new: their fantastic lighting setup, involving huge LCD displays that illuminated the entire club.
By the end of the show, I realized that only a couple Yeasayer tracks really do it for me – even “Ambling Alps” is wearing thin after hearing it a million times last summer. Yet their show was undeniably professional, and their visual appeal kept me interested even during the less exciting songs. Plus, as an experimental pop band, each song was different enough from the last, and short enough that I never got bored of watching them.
The most striking thing about Yeasayer’s set was their lighting setup. They had two huge panels of LCDs behind them, as well as multicolored spotlights. Sometimes these were used to create some background atmosphere for the group; other times the lights obscured the band, creating an aura of mystery. During “Mondegreen” and “Sunlight”, the strobe effects dominated, turning what would’ve been duller songs for the evening into hypnotic, rhythmic club tracks. The band definitely knew how to use these visuals to enhance their sound – something not all bands can pull off successfully without distracting from the members themselves. Their leader Chris Keating came across as a shaggy, sincere rock star, glad to play in a venue as great as the 930 Club. I guess when you grow up in Baltimore, this is what you dream of!
Yeasayer’s set began with the “ooo ooo oooh”s of “Madder Red”, an instantly catchy and memorable track. Maybe this is a ridiculous song to sing along to, with its lack of words and all, but it was even stranger to see people dancing around to “O.N.E.”, jumping up and down while shouting “hold me like you used to!” How sweet of you to say, bros. It’s not my favorite, but “O.N.E.” was the surprise hit of the night, getting a bigger reaction than their single “Ambling Alps.”
The set mostly consisted of material from their latest album Odd Blood, but they also tried out some new songs, including the track they just performed on Conan. Devil and the Deed seemed solid – it was one of the better funky tracks of the night.
One of the reasons I was drawn to the band in the first place is because they seemed inclined to experiment with their sound, using strange instrumentation to bring interest to songs with a classic pop structure. I thought the show put together a cohesive setlist, highlighting their experimental tracks, as well as hipster summer dance tracks like “Ambling Alps”. Their albums seem a bit uneven, but the band chose their setlist well, and I’m sure tracks like Devil and the Deed will become staples of their future sets.