The Yeah Yeah Yeahs played Las Vegas on October 4, 2002, opening for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at the House of Blues. I’d never heard the arty New York rock trio before that night—the band had only one five-track EP to its name at the time—but after witnessing guitarist Nick Zinner, drummer Brian Chase and, most significantly, singer Karen O perform a handful of numbers to a mostly empty room, I was totally hooked and hoping for a quick return.
If only. Nearly a full seven years later, the group finally found its way back to town last weekend, headlining the Pearl—a venue that didn’t exist in a casino barely a year old when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs last appeared here. And though I wish I could tell you the experience lived up to its interminable wait, the truth is that I left unmoved by a show that felt altogether too perfunctory. So, why three stars? Well, the band’s catalog—now three albums large to go with that original EP—is loaded with quality tunes, 15 of which (along with a cover of The Cramps’ “Human Fly”) the three musicians capably executed. Still, it was far from the can’t-miss event suggested all those years ago by that electric Vegas debut.
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Beyond the Weekly
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It would be easy to attribute the night’s shortcomings to a dismal sound mix that muted Karen’s vocal impact, particularly on ballads like “Skeletons” and “Maps,” when her words should have carried most easily over sparse instrumentation. Post-concert speculation had it that her voice had somehow suffered damage, and that her mic had been purposefully turned down to cover that fact. Either way, the issue felt bigger than one woman and her larynx. Even as Ms. O pogo’d endlessly in her funky, oversized poncho, flashing wicked smiles and giving those along the front rail chances to sing their own line from “Cheated Hearts,” it seemed like she and her bandmates weren’t truly there, at least, not the way they were seven years ago, when they were young and hungry and could barely fill a setlist. I’d like to think that band is still out there somewhere, but I’m not going to hold my breath another seven years to find out.