Yeasayer - April 27, 2010, First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN

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Apr 30 2010, 23:21

Yeasayer is a group of rock stars. I think the band is finally coming to terms with this. I'd seen them a few times, with the common thread being that they were extremely adept musicians doing everything they could to translate their talent to a live venue. This time around, I became convinced they finally found their sound, and because of it, the group is having a little more fun enjoying their earned status. Yeasayer needn't have been nervous to play a sold-out show at First Avenue, but they did have a lot of expectations to live up to. It's the first major tour to support the sophomore album, so I was eager to hear the balance between the old and new. The beauty is that onstage, they create one thematic sound and bend their catalog ever so slightly around it. The tinny tunes from All Hour Cymbals get amped up, and the new dance hits are not relied upon as pillars of the set, but are rather parts of the whole.

The band comes onto a stage with four lighted squares for backdrop and similarly lighted pedestals up front that hold a few of the keyboards. Breathe one sigh of relief here: Yeasayer is establishing a vibe and a stage presence. The opener is the distorted The Children, which of course opens Odd Blood but is a sly choice here because it's not immediately accessible. At least if they expect you to want to dance later, the band is going to make you work for it. After a few of these medium-pace numbers, they rip into the uptempo Rome. Lights pulse in dim hues, never quite illuminating faces of the group but giving the venue that dance-house dreamy state. Chris Keating has learned to lighten up a bit, and is happy to bounce around the stage when he's not held back by the keys. The double percussion is a necessary move at this point in their game to really keep that full, enveloping sound. Most of the five members played at least a couple different instruments, and I had never realized just how much guitarist Anand Wilder was center for vocal duties.

The first oldie to hit our ears was Wait for the Summer, which was well-received by the crowd. A few of the newer songs were delivered, although none of the obvious singles quite yet. This made the rather early inclusion of 2080 unexpected and exciting. The experience of hearing this song in its best form, namely, live, makes anyone want to, well, live. With the crowd ready for more, Yeasayer filled out most of the set with newer songs, with hits like the pounding Madder Red plus the treat of Tightrope. Every few songs, Mr. Keating spoke to the crowd, which I hadn't known Yeasayer to do but was much needed. He said everything right at all the right times, while staying just this side of cliche. Rock stars they may be, but they seemed genuinely honored to be playing the main stage.

The main set ended with Ambling Alp. Kudos to them for being able to hold off that long, and of course the crowd ate it up. After a brief exit and absence, one of the drummers was sent back on stage to act as hype man and pumped up the audience until they cheered loud enough to get the band back on stage. They played Grizelda, and then the beautiful Sunrise came into the room. What a way those opening oohs can move you. They bring to life some summer when a friend tells you about a band called Yeasayer, and when you get a chance to listen you're not sure what that opening track is building to, but you want to be a part of it. So, it was fitting that the third and final encore song was Red Cave, which seems to be the band's staple closer. It's a celebration song, and Yeasayer is celebration music.

I look forward to the next few years. A few back, Yeasayer threw together gospel, Eastern, and pop music to create an unmatched sound. A little while later, they showed that not only could they carve out a spot in the ever-growing dance-pop genre, but that they could do it better than anybody else. Whatever comes next will once again be uniquely theirs, and will surely fit into that atmosphere of bass and lights.

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