Fragrant Self-Defense

Live Shot of Yeasayer at Stubb's Thursday

Yeasayer, Stubb's, 9.6.12
Yeasayer, Stubb's, 9.6.12 (by Sandy Carson)

People stretched to the back fence at Stubb’s permanently dusty Waller Creek Amphitheater, a packed house even for a venue known for bringing in mega-acts. Standing four strong, Brooklyn's Yeasayer took the stage in defense of latest LP Fragrant World, deciphering its intricate songs into a dance hall set that boasted many band antiquities.

It's nerve-wracking watching a band like Yeasayer, which has built a reputation on defying even its own norm, swing out live with new material. Then again, the band's never been shy to change, jumping right in at Stubb's with an underwhelming take on new track “Blue Paper.”

Despite this shortsighted offering, the band was instantly captivating. Umbrella-like objects and constantly morphing lights stacked high behind the group, a much anticipated new stage set-up blogs have buzzed about. Watching the screens go from orbed blue to blood-red diamonds gave the sense of being inside a gemstone.

“Henrietta” was a solid bridge between old and new. Although it’s been in the band’s live rotation for years, it was finally pinned to Fragrant World. The altered song maintains its origins, but more exploratory and tweaked.

Continuing back into their chronicles, staple hit “2080” from first album All Hour Cymbals gave the future a grudging optimism, but still acquiesces to rioting cohesion when the bass dissolves into a shouted cry at the end. A medley of Odd Blood’s “Don’t Come Close” and “Madder Red” sent the crowd into a frenzy as the first “oooh-ed” falsetto chorus soared to life.

“Reagan’s Skeleton” brought perspective to the R&B gloss on the new disc, topping a booty-shaking bass with writhing and twitching quips that emanated from parts unknown. Yeasayer’s always courted a dance element in its aesthetic, evident with the can-do hook of “Ambling Alp,” the official closing before a meaty four-song encore.

Yeasayer delivered. The fans that rallied behind them with hate mail in response to Pitchfork writer Ian Cohen’s vicious review of Fragrant World are the same fans that continue embracing the sharp musical turns the quartet takes on each album. The consistency they exhibit stems from the challenge Yeasayer gives itself – to innovate both onstage and off.

More Yeasayer
Fragrant World
Fragrant World
Q&A with Yeasayer guitarist Anand Wilder

Abby Johnston, Sept. 5, 2012

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Yeasayer, Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater, Pitchfork

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