Shunt, Wednesday 19 May 2010
The first clear thought I had watching Yeasyer at Shunt last week, slightly skewed on Peroni and slightly weirded out by essentially being inside a dungeon, was "how ridiculously talented is this band?" Shortly followed by "how wasted are they on this crowd". It was a sad fact that most of the people there seemed more interested in getting papped by the TopShop girls than plugging into the pure brilliance of this eclectic group. People talked ALL THE WAY THROUGH. While you can get away with that at Brixton or Shepherds Bush, when you're in a venue where the band can see the label on your beer bottle, that is not cool.
It took a while for me to get comfortable with the jump Yeasayer made from the world music, indie style of All Hour Cymbals to the much more ravey, slightly (more) pretentious Odd Blood. In fact I positively hated it at first as the first record had been such a wondrous treat. But I have been won round and last night cemented for me the fact that they really are just an incredibly talented bunch of musicians. Even if they all seem to be coming from completely different places, somehow they work and what they produce is the vocal equivalent of cold beer in a desert. Life-affirmingly refreshing.
Back to the gig: they opened with the deliciously freaky 'The Children' which, with the distorted vocals and heavy beat, was a spine tingling start to the set and particularly chilling standing in a dark, dank vault, probably on the spot where someone had been strapped to a rack in the last century or so. The band then moved on to the swinging, drum driven 'Rome' which was good but I was sad to see bassist Ira relegated to synth duty. He's not made for synths. Happily he was back on four strings during the slightly forceless but overall nicely overwhelming 'Madder Red.' 'Wait For The Summer' is just an awesome song from start to finish and this was a titanic rendition, complete with cymbals played with maracas which I don't think is something I have seen before (it worked).
'I Remember,' the Yeasyer version of a ballad, came complete with that lovely cascading sound and and some excellent, powerful harmonies. Next up was the anthemic '2080' followed by 'Strange Reunions' and then the moment for quiet before what is probably the best Yeasyer track ever: 'Tightrope.' But of course there was no quiet, people kept yapping and although the band continued bravely on you could sense their relief when they got to 'O.N.E' and the end of the gig was in sight. 'Mondegreen' and 'Ambling Alp' finished the night off with aplomb and finally the band could go back to their beds and away from the gabbling crowd.
It might have been a bit of a sulky performance in places but Yeasayer are just not the kind of band who will turn up and put a PR face on, which is the downside of being so genuinely motivated by the music side of things. Even if they didn't connect with the crowd of kids, scensters and bitter old hacks they still played a blinder of a gig in my view and they will always be the most pleasurable thing I've ever done in a torture chamber.