“We don’t need no stinkin’ label” Clap Your Hands Say Yeah delivered an excited and expressive set on Tuesday night at Manhattan’s Blender Theater at Gramercy.Still touring off of last February’s self-released sophomore hit, Some Loud Thunder (QRO review), CYHSY hit up the Big Apple for a couple of dates, before heading west for a few festivals (Red Rocks’ Monolith, Austin City Limits, and San Fran’s Treasure Island) and a West Coast tour with Elvis Perkins in Dearland. September 11th is always an emotional-charged day in New York, but the feelings at Gramercy’s named-after-a-Maxim-spin-off theater (QRO venue review) were all good.
Clap Your Hands opened up the evening with “In This Home On Ice”, the second single off of their self-titled 2005 breakthrough debut, an expansive-yet-intimate piece that brought the crowd home, but was anything but cold. While the set largely favored Clap Your Hands Say Yeah tracks over Some Loud Thunder’s, the next three were off of the more recent record. While “Mama, Won’t You Keep Those Castles in the Air & Burning?” might have been a little too slow for so early on, everyone in the crowd was a-jumping for Thunder’s hit single, “Satan Said Dance”. Evoking an almost eighties New Wave-pop, “Satan” was so fun that even the Bible Belt would be bopping. And finishing off the Loud triptych was the record’s eponymous opener – “A song about thunder,” said singer/guitarist Alec Ounsworth, on a night where the sky featured loud claps of it – that was much helped by no longer having the excessive lo-fi distortion that it displayed on recording.
However, after “Some Loud Thunder”, Clap Your Hands’ set was almost entirely dominated by Clap Your Hands material, but considering Some Loud Thunder never quite matched the heights of its predecessor, that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. This was all begun appropriately enough with CYHSY’s first single, “Is This Love?”, that tap-danced its way into the crowd’s bended ears. The sweet, winning synth-pop of “Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)” led the crowd into one of the few Thunder pieces remaining, “Yankee Go Home”. But the driving, pressing “Yankee” is probably the strongest track on Thunder, and was possibly the biggest (non-single) crowd favorite of the night. The shift to the subdued, grooving “Gimme Some Salt” was a bit jarring, but that isn’t to say it didn’t work. Another odd, but still successful, change occurred out of “Salt”, with “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”. Ounsworth introduced the bright, gliding number as “a country song”, and he wasn’t wrong, but, to borrow a phrase from the Branson-by-way-of-U.S.S.R. Yakov Smirnoff, “What a country!”
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah playing “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” live @ Blender Theater at Gramercy, New York, NY:
The up-down alternation of Clap Your Hand’s set-list continued with the somber “Details of the War”, a sobering, date-appropriate rumination on where we’ve gone these past six years. As if to pick up the crowd after that beautiful, but downbeat, number, Ounsworth grabbed his megaphone for “Clap Your Hands!”, the introduction to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the album, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the band, and it couldn’t help but hit new heights live, thanks to heavy audience participation. Things got a little muddled after that, but CYHSY went into their encore break on a high note with the flowing epic, “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood”, with old, as well as young, cheering. The encore return of Thunder’s “Underwater (You & Me)” seemed a little too laid-back for such a spot, but “Heavy Metal” easily out-delivered its CYHSY performance as the night’s finisher, jumpin’-and-jivin’ the jumpin’-and-jivin’ crowd.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah playing “Underwater (You & Me)” live @ Blender Theater at Gramercy, New York, NY:
Alec Ounsworth sang and strummed like a twenty-first century Gordon Gano (of The Violent Femmes), while behind him guitarist/keyboardists Robbie Guertin and Lee Sargent kept switching positions and instruments. Guertin was hyped-up like a sugar-fueled elf, but Lee Sargent looked like he couldn’t be less interested, with bassist Tyler Sargent somewhere in the middle (and drummer Sean Greenhalgh lost behind a wall of amps). CYHSY have always had a diverse fanbase, from young alt-teeny boppers to older, artsy, world-wise scenesters, but the crowd at Gramercy was a particularly stark mix of all ages and adult, from a foursome of kids who managed to get invited backstage seemingly solely because they were all wearing bandanas as headbands, to a rugged fellow right at the front, who resembled former Saturday Night Live guitarist/musical director G.E. Smith. But Clap Your Hands Say Yeah play music that does appeal to everyone, and no one left Gramercy anything less than happy.