Experimental rock group Yeasayer’s music took on a life of its own at their sold-out Fillmore show Wednesday night. Assisted by extravagant stage lighting and smoke machines, the band immediately captured the packed Fillmore crowd with their larger-than-life music. The band played a thorough mix of new songs and old favorites from their critically acclaimed albums Odd Blood and All Hours Cymbals in a two hour set that was practically flawless.
The night began with a raunchy performance from solo-artist Hush Hush, featuring provocative dance moves and songs with names like “69.” Next performed grungy indie-rockers Smith Westerns, whose hazy, washed sound perfectly contrasted the neon lights and pschycadelic visuals of headliner Yeasayer.
Enter Yeasayer: lights flashing, smoke rolling off the stage in thick blankets, just like the walls of sound that vibrated through the crowded concert hall. In today’s technological era, Yeasayer knew just how to manipulate sound without losing the purity of simpler musical moments created by powerful solos and gorgeous vocal harmonies. All three of the band’s main members’ distinctive and powerful voices rang out clear over the distortion and sound effects of the band. Bass player Tuton’s impossibly high voice provided the characteristic background vocals on Grizelda, while both Keating and Wilder proved themselves to have impeccable control over their voices even as they danced wildly around the stage.
Madder Red was the highlight of the night, drawing the audience into a united rally on the soaring “oohs” of the chorus. Catchy 80s-throwbacks like O.N.E. had the entire Fillmore dancing and singing, while a huge LED screen depicted a silhouette of a naked woman dancing in the background. Intricate pieces like Wait For Summer showed off stunning vocal harmonies from the three frontmen. The set closed with Ambling Alp, leaving the audience hungry for more after a time-transcending set that seemed to pass by in minutes.
The band’s encore further proved their talent beyond the technology they heavily rely on; 2080 featured a tight back-and-forth musical conversation between bassist Ira Wolf Tuton and guitarist Anand Wilder. Time and time again, the experimental psych band proved their musical genius with their overpowering and complex layers of sound.
Collaboration was key; the five musicians were in constant musical conversation, feeding off of each other’s ideas and allowing the music to rise and fall in a way that felt completely organic despite the extensive use of distortion and effects. Vocalist/keyboardist Chris Keating was in constant motion, adding percussion in one corner of the stage, then dashing to the sound table in the center to mess around with the effects on his own voice. The band’s complex musical collaboration was proof that electronic bands can be just as musically refined as more traditionally-instrumented ensembles.
When Chris Keating announced the last song, no on in the audience was ready to leave. I was so impressed by the live electronic pysch-pop that I would have gladly attended the show again Thursday…that is, if it hadn’t sold out weeks ago.