City Hall Plaza, August 10, 2006
The sun had started to set, the heat of the day has lost its grip on the city, and thousands – 10, 12, 15 thousand — were filing peacefully into City Hall Plaza long before the headlining Yeah Yeah Yeahs were due to take the stage. All the makings of a perfect rock and roll evening were in place as Brooklyn’s TV on the Radio filled downtown with an eclectic mix of organic post-punk guitars and almost trance-y rhythms devoid of the electronic embellishments that are such of big part of the alterna-indie band’s studio sound. TV on the Radio co-leaders Tunde Adebimpe (vocals) and David Sitek (guitar/keybs) have both been close with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Sitek produced their debut EP for Touch and Go as well as its follow-up, the Interscope album Fever To Tell, and Adebimpe directed the video for the single “Pin.” And Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase and guitarist Nick Zinner returned the favor by lending their talents to TV on the Radio’s debut for Touch and Go, 2003’s Young Liars. The stars were seemingly aligned just right.
And then TV on the Radio had to go and ruin the good vibes by ending their set with a salvo against the Marines, who had signed on as one of the event’s sponsors. Now this is no place for a political rant, but it’s worth noting — no, it’s crucial to understand, lest we fully repeat the mistakes of Viet Nam — that the Marines, Army reserves, and Navy and Air Force pilots currently fighting George Bush’s wars in the Middle East are doing just that, carrying out plans handed down by their commander in chief and doing their best not to get the asses blown to hell in the process. Soldiers take orders: they don’t make policy. To blame them for the mess in Iraq is to tacitly let the bureaucrats and politicians really responsible for the debacle off the hook. And both Adebimpe and Sitek know better: just check out “Dry Drunk Emperor,” a free MP3 they recorded before signing their own deal with Interscope.
Fortunately, Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O had little trouble setting the mood back to right. Dressed like some kind of X Woman superhero in red and gold leather short shorts with a matching top and moon boots, she quite literally took over the stage as Chase and Zinner lost no time kicking into the swinging, bass-less anthem “Gold Lion.” Though they brought along an extra guy in a red jumpsuit to play keybs, guitar, and bass when needed, he spent roughly half the set just kneeling in front of his amp, rocking back and forth autistically to the jagged guitar squalls and hammering backbeats Chase and Zinner laid down for Karen O, who bopped around stage like a young Debra Harry. Between Chase’s powerful drumming and Zinner inventive riffs, there just wasn’t much need for anything else except, of course, Karen O’s alluring, excited presence. It didn’t take long before she had a good deal of the crowd pogoing along with her and a mosh pit of sorts was forming in front of the stage. And, by the time the band had worked their way through to a set-closing “Maps,” a spikey love song that’s never really quite a ballad even if it’s got all the sentiment of one, it was once again feeling like one of those perfect evenings.
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