"We’re back, man, we’re back," Karen O told a wildly cheering crowd last night in Pomona, California, near the end of 70-minute Yeah Yeah Yeahs warm-up gig for an impending Australian tour. The career-spanning show at the 800-capacity Glass House was a rare sighting of the band, but the beginning of a busy new year, with hints of their first new album in four years.
The night began with "Mosquito," a driving, grinding new song, as Karen O warned, "I’ll suck your blood!" It was raw, minimalist rock that reached back to the sound of the YYY’s debut album, Fever to Tell, now a decade behind them. The singer performed it with style, wearing a zebra cape over a sparkling red, fringed jacket with a purple "Y" dangling from her neck. Guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase wore black.
Fans have had to be patient for new YYYs music, as band members scattered to different projects – particularly Karen O, who’s been busy with a soundtrack to 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are, collaborating with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on an intense version of Led Zeppelin’s "Immigrant Song" (from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and even singing on David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time album.
The first clues about a new album began to emerge from another small-room gig in December at a Hurricane Sandy benefit at Union Pool in Brooklyn, where the band debuted the song "Despair." More information on the spring release is hard to come by, including the album’s title. The merch table in Pomona was selling leftover T-shirts from the band's It’s Blitz tours.
Songs from the YYY’s previous three albums were as raw and exciting as ever. Karen O and the crowd bounced to the disco beat and sweeping pop melody of "Heads Will Roll" and set off a cloud of sparkling Y-shaped confetti. There were brooding low-end guitars and bass on the contemplative "Soft Shock" as O sang ("Lips speak louder/ Better back together . . . ") with hand to heart, falling to her knees as the band unwound in noisy ecstasy.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs looked thrilled to be onstage together, with even Zinner cracking the occasional smile. They were joined onstage by touring sideman Dave Pajo on bass, keyboards and guitar (just as he was for the band’s 2009-10 tour).
During "Phenomena," Zinner played guitar with the occasional knob-twist on a nearby sequencer, as Karen O vamped and ran her hands through her bob of platinum and dark hair. Zinner then took his first photo of the night, aiming a camera at the crowd as Chase pounded the familiar beat of "Gold Lion." Pajo strummed an acoustic guitar.
Karen O shouted the song’s euphoric "Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh!" chorus, then threw her microphone down and exited the stage. She returned in a studded leather jacket (with "KO" written on the back) to the electronic hum of "Zero" and another blast of confetti. On "Cheated Hearts," she passed her microphone to fans to sing along. One of them simply yelled, "I love you!"
As the night came to an end, she dedicated "Maps" to opening garage-rock duo the Bots and "all you motherfuckers" who had come out to the show on a cold Southern California night, and who have waited too long for another chance to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs back in action.