Yeasayer and Icy Demons at the Bluebird Theater

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Yeasayer and Icy Demons
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Bluebird Theater
Better than:

Druggies, take notice: Yeasayer is a band you need to know. Between the trippy, hypnotic visuals provided by the lightball tree sculptures on stage and the wall-of-sound performance, this is a band that will help you get maximum mileage from your high. That doesn't mean that those less inclined to chemical explorations should shy away; for reasons of professionalism and general good sense, I saw this show as sober as a devout Mormon and still came away plenty impressed with the performance and the ambience.

Visually, those lightball trees (just like it sounds: treelike things with balls of light at the ends of the "branches") provided a simple yet powerful visual element -- cycling colors, bathing the stage in solid hues, and pulsing various colors in time with the music. Thus the mood was set for an urban-tribal neoshamanic ceremony, and Yeasayer provided.

Luke Fasano pounded out a vibrant, powerful bass on the drum kit, accompanied by the muscular, propulsive bass work of Ira Tuton. The remainder of the sound was provided by Anand Wilder (guitar, electronics, some vocals) and Chris Keating (vocals, electronics). The foursome faced a difficult task in re-creating the layered, complex sounds of the album live, but they met the challenge using clever rearrangements and reimaginings of the recorded versions alongside some skillful, inventive use of technology. The variety of guitar tones, synthesizer sounds, effects and loops that were seamlessly integrated was genuinely impressive, yet they were never too reliant on tech toys; at one point, everyone was playing simple percussion, and it was easily one of the most intense moments of the show.

The result was a set full of surprising yet recognizable songs. Surprisingly, some of the material that faded into the background on the album shone especially strong here - "Worms" came alive, and "Wait for the Wintertime" and "No Need to Worry" were positively epic. The two or three (or was it four?) new songs were uniformly excellent and well-suited to live performance (no surprise, since they were presumably written on the road sometime in the fourteen months the band has been on tour). It put me in mind of other bands I've seen or heard about that manage to create something different live from their recorded work that is equally intense and beautiful - acts like Pink Floyd and Radiohead, which is good company no matter how you slice it.  

It wasn't perfect. In many ways, the band is still feeling things out as a live outfit. At times the momentum stalled and some of the considerable power that had been built up simply dissipated. Some of the stronger material from the album, such as "Wait for the Summer," lost something live. Still, it's obvious things are moving in the right direction, and an album or two and a couple of tours from now, Yeasayer should be the best thing happening in live music.
--Cory Casciato

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Although I discovered it too late for it to make my end-of-year list, Yeasayer's debut was definitely one of my favorite records released in 2007.
Random Detail: The drummer from Hot IQs was flyering at the show.
By the Way: I only caught two songs by Icy Demons. As a snap judgment, my take was they did some decent, Animal Collective-inspired tribal/drum-circle pop.

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