Touring with their very fresh released 2010 album, ‘Odd Blood’, US, Brooklyn based, quote – ’Experimental rock, Psychedelic pop, Worldbeat sonic evangelists’, Yeasayer, have both fans and critics alike getting in to all sorts of thesaurian froths trying to draw metaphors of eclectic genre comparisons. Sonic buccaneers? Curators of the cosmic consciousness? Electro fusions for the inner-spaced out tantric troubadours? Possibly. The band concede that their muse might be seen and heard as, ‘Middle Eastern-psych-snap gospel.’ Hmm, that clears up any ambiguities then.
Yeasayer can mean either one of two things: one who is an up-beat optimist or, resigned to passive acceptance. It was clear, very soon in to the set, that up-beat optimism was the band’s default setting for the whole evening and rapidly drew the crowd into delirious acceptance.
The core band are a trio comprising of Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and the spectacularly X Men sounding Ira Wolf Tuton. On tour accompaniment is with Jason Trammell on drums and Ahmed Gallab, keyboards/percussion. And there were plenty of keyboards indeed. Not your Prog-Rock stack racks but those dinky little ones that they played ambidextrously.
The set list leant predominantly on new album, ‘Odd Blood’, opening with a Stars Of The Lid type moody crescendo with the band silhouetted against minimalist, luminescent back panels, ‘Children’ kicked in with gusto. Contrary to the comparative styles alluded to earlier, for this writer at least, their contexts can be misleading; being less esoteric and mystic than suggested. Yeasayer ‘s sound draws on myriad and seemingly contradictory influences; it really just shouldn’t work, but it does, conjuring a quixotic kind of magic. Theramin solos, synth sitar harmonies? Yours for the taking. The set races on and there’s an engaging crowd rapport, notwithstanding the increasingly sweaty sauna conditions. (Note to Academy: it’s 02 guys, not C02.)
‘Madder Red’ evokes early Roxy Music, a drizzle of Enya (imagine that!) with the percussive assault of Secret Machines. Brace yourselves, but the image of New Romantic Folk was tantalizing present. ‘Tightrope’ has a syncopated shimmer and damn it if there weren’t echoes of Gary Numan in there. ‘Wait For The Summer’ was shamelessly up-beat romantic and had couples cuddling with post Valentine sighs. Counterpoint harmonies are a crucial element with this band and heartily encouraging that is. (Try Grizzly Bear to appreciate just how brilliant fellow Americans are at reviving these melodic gems.) The main set closes with ‘One’, an up-beat synthy popster, with nuances of early OMD and Depeche Mode and even (ask your parents) Flock Of Seagulls. The point of these name checks is not to deny the band their originality but to share in their passion for assimilating disparate influences..
The crowd bay for more and, being the gentlemen they are, the band return promptly with the Celtic, harmonium intro to Grizelda and close a most uplifting evening with ‘Sunrise’. I’ve seen a fair few gigs in the past 40 years but seldom have come away feeling so in tune with a band and appreciating the generosity of the Brum punter. Press pass definitely going in the scrap book.
Review John Kennedy
Photos Katja Ogrin