It had been nine long years since the last Yeah Yeah Yeahs show in Chicago when Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase took the stage at the Aragon Ballroom on May 29 for one of only a handful of concerts the trio is performing this year. “Even if we only perform three shows this year, one had to be in Chicago,” Karen O said mid-set and – like every syllable she spoke – the statement was met with deafening cheers.
Nostalgia engulfed the sold-out venue as the show (presented by Jam Productions) was a celebration of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ seminal debut album, “Fever To Tell,” which turned 15 this year. A soft and sentimental rendition of “Modern Romance” eased fans into the performance as the opening number before the group erupted in perfect punk rock rebellion with a trio of throwback tracks including “Rich,” “Cold Light” and “Black Tongue.” The encore also belonged to “Fever to Tell” as the not-so-hidden track “Poor Song” and a delightfully violent take on “Date with the Night” bookended the perennial crowd-pleaser “Y Control.”
Reminiscences of previous tours appeared not only in the song selection as Karen O’s wardrobe choices – including a “Black Tongue” jacket and “Fever to Tell” T-shirt – and masterful microphone maneuvers also gave fans a blast from the past. From twirling the mic with machismo mannerisms (after singing, “Boy you just a stupid b*tch and girl you just a no good d*ck”) to stabbing herself in the heart with the mic at the conclusion of “Maps” (which began with obligatory dedications to the many forms of love) to striking superhero poses while Zinner and Chase created monumentally noisy jams, Karen O’s flair for theatrics enhanced every memory-filled moment.
While the night belonged to “Fever to Tell” – there was even a pre-show documentary detailing the group’s 2003 tour – each album took its turn in the spotlight. “Gold Lion” and “Cheated Hearts” represented “Show Your Bones” and “Sacrilege” gave fans a chance to worship at the alter of “Mosquito.” Karen O put her leather on for the “It’s Blitz!” hit “Zero” and a heartfelt and heavy take on “Soft Shock” uncovered the trio’s tender touch. The night-long dance party reached its peak during the pre-encore, confetti-filled set closer “Heads Will Roll.”
Each member of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought distinctly individual qualities to the stage that, when combined, created a truly rare rock and roll experience. Zinner’s mad scientist riffs – surprising yet accessible – blended perfectly with Karen O’s guttural growls and sweet phrases while Chase adhered the two with his indestructible rhythms. The deep cut “Miles Away” provided one of the best examples of the three personalities coming together to create music that is somehow hard and soft, aggressive and romantic.
As Karen O’s repeated microphone slams announced that the night was coming to an end, cheers from fans indicated that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ return to Chicago was worth the almost decade-long wait. Head over to YeahYeahYeahs.com for more information about upcoming shows and to pick up a copy of the “Fever To Tell” vinyl reissue.