Photos by Ryan Falk
Between releasing regimented renditions of Fragrant World, their follow up to 2010’s Odd Blood, and performing improvisational compositions of the album along the way, Yeasayer makes one thing abundantly clear: they are genretically in a category all by themselves, which makes them all the more relevant in a world quickly eager to slap labels on everything and send it down the ole assembly line. The show at The Vic was no exception, as the band connected fan to artist and artist to the senses and sight to sound and so on.
Showgoers who treated themselves to this outing were greeted by the band’s recorded message of: “Good evening Chicago…Chicago…Chicago.” The pre-recordedness ended there, and the remix tour began with the slow bass/synth combos and giant dubsteppy prisms, supercharged lasers, and slow progression of the title track for an album that you strangely won’t find anywhere on the album.
Foursome emerged together, lead singer and foregone frontman Chris Keating taking the reins with ease and strength. It would be the leadership and shared duties on vocals between Keating and Anand Wilder that impressed me the most.
Articulate, advanced riffs from Wilder followed on Henrietta, a song so pretty and pure, its breakdown with yellows and greens electrifying the prisms while sweet melodies of “Oh Henrietta, we can make love forever” make it irresistible to the ear and (maybe more importantly) the soul. We all need our version of Henrietta. I got mine; I hope you find yours. This review is dedicated to the biggest Yeasayer fan I know who couldn’t be with us tonight. The practical absence of old material would’ve been a downer for her anyway. That being said…
…2080 is probably my favorite song by them, it of the existentially excellent edifice variety of song. All that aside, the live version felt sped up and hurried, the listener not being fully able to grasp the sheer magnitude of the song’s message. White laser combined with spine-tingling, hair-on-the-arm-raising lyrical content.
Fragrant World‘s Blue Paper and the lyrics “I don’t buy it for a second,” included oranges and blues (O&B: new genre perhaps?), pinks, purples, and magentas coinciding with the sounds which led into a little intimate banter with Keating, who let everyone in attendance know he used to live three blocks from The Vic, and new drummer Chris Parks is from here. Huh, who knew?
Fragrant World‘s Longevity is a plea to live in the now and enjoy what we’ve got. “Live in the moment. Never count on longevity,” because basically, and I’m paraphrasing, you ain’t promised shit in this world. Purple, yellow, hint of red.
Whites, ceruleans, pinks paved the way to Odd Blood’s O.N.E, which was just about unrecognizably remixed and remade into a brilliant interpretation, and as the song itself goes: “It’s much easier said than it’s done.” Extra Anand-Wilder-provided plucks and embellishments gave it an extra something magnificent, transforming to a version of masterpiece theater.
Prism-tickling yellows, greens, and teals led into vocal shifts, bouncing around from Wilder to Keating and help from Tuton, as they continued the “everyone knows and does everything” approach and executed flawlessly.
“Who’s gonna break loose?” Teeter-tottering primal guitar murmurs, strong, thumping pulse of the bass, falsetto harmonies, progressively ancient breakdowns all intertwined with red diamonds and pyramids and the guitar virtuosity of Wilder. All on full display, all precise.
The song I’d want everyone to know and love, Ambling Alp came toward the end of the show, but the self-reflection and introversion exported through song could not have come at a better time: “Now kid, I know I haven’t been a perfect man” blending with the chorus: “Stick up for yourself, son. Nevermind what anybody else done.” Words to fucking live and love by. Thinner lasers of pink, light red, and white.
Neon green, cobalt blue, and yellow laser tag arena-esque encore beginning. Rainbow fog vortexes all building the excitement and suspense for none other than…Tightrope.
The chanty, electronically tribal sing along was the perfect cap to the night, and it showcased Yeasayer’s ability to stay ahead of whatever curve might exist while encapsulating the human experience through song.
“If we did belong to some easily-defined genre, like chillwave, would that help or hurt us?” Keating wonders aloud. “I think in the long run it would hurt us. If you can lump something into a genre – especially some arbitrary, bloggy genre – then people are always going to be like, ‘chillwave – that was 2008, it’s 2040 now.’