It seems like every other day an odd, esoteric musician or band breaks out – and they often come from Brooklyn. With the internet, the underground is overground (or at least online), and so much these days is revival/retread/reunion, that anyone who can make something actually new is celebrated, in any field. But what happens after the newness wears off, when the second & third records come about? Many acts wilt, or just try to repeat what worked before even though it’s no longer new. Some overreach and completely abandon what worked before. But some build on what was once new, into something that’s both new & familiar – and they can come home in triumph, like New York’s own Yeasayer, who returned home to play Central Park SummerStage on Wednesday, September 12th.
With debut All Hour Cymbals (QRO review) in 2007, the outfit centered around singer/guitarist Anand Wilder (QRO interview), singer/keyboardist Chris Keating, and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton got out of playing tiny places like Cake Shop (QRO venue review), and into larger spots like SummerStage (QRO venue review) – though usually as opener (QRO photos opening at SummerStage). With 2010 follow-up Odd Blood (QRO review), they managed to keep their oddly electronic-tribal sound married to alt-rock while also staying fresh. And with the just-released Fragrant World (QRO review), they fully established themselves at the high bar they set – and justified headlining a major space like SummerStage (including bringing an incredibly impressive light show & effects).
The set list (QRO photo) at SummerStage naturally favored Fragrant, composing over half the songs, from opener “Blue Paper” to closer “Folk Hero Schtick”, yet even with their growth, Odd Blood and even All Hour Cymbals tracks didn’t come as jarring shifts – indeed, Fragrant b-side “Don’t Come Close” nicely medleyed into Blood‘s great “Madder Red”. Keating didn’t have to announce before Cymbals‘ “2080” that they were “gonna play an old song” (except maybe because it made the song’s title ironic…), as it fit in well between two Fragrant songs, “Henrietta” and “Longevity”. Another great one-two-three transition came just before the encore break, as Cymbals‘ “Wait For Summer” (which picked up the energy after the somewhat less impressive “Demon Road” from Fragrant) went wonderfully into you-forgot-it-was-great “Reagan’s Skeleton” off of Fragrant, and then came Blood single “Ambling Alp” to ‘close out’ the night.
Yeasayer playing “Reagan’s Skeleton” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 12th, 2012:
Actually, when announcing that “Alp” was going to be their last song, Keating joked that that was just something musicians say, that they were obviously coming back – a comment from a musician who’s seen a lot of other musicians play shows in his Big Apple home. And the encore return was no one-song quickie, but four, including “Tightrope”, their contribution to acclaimed charity compilation Dark Was the Night (QRO review).
Yeasayer’s New York date was meant to be the last in America before jumping across the pond and starting a European tour four days later at Berlin’s Astra, but Keating informed the crowd that they were going to have to cut their tour short, “For the best possible reason” – Wilder had just had a baby girl on Saturday (baby Wilder will share her birthday with Patsy Cline, Aimee Mann, Neko Case, Wiz Khalifa, and Avicii), and “We came back to New York to raise it – we’ll be ‘Four Men & a Baby’…”. Yeasayer have grown from kids to dads, from being ‘just another’ new odd & compelling Brooklyn act doing something actually new, into a singular & interesting New York group who are both fresh & established.
Yeasayer playing “Ambling Alp” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 12th, 2012: