Naysayers say yea to Yeasayer’s psychedelic extravaganza

Just before Thanksgiving break on Sunday, Nov. 18, indie electronic group Yeasayer came to the Tabernacle to make up for the show they missed early this year for their Fragrant World Tour.

The threesome has found widespread success after their sophomore release Odd Blood in 2010, and released their latest album, Fragrant World to a somewhat more muted reception. However, Yeasayer’s show proved to be a pleasant mix of old and new, of the psychedelic and the just plain weird.

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Yeasayer, consisting of Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder, played an impressive set which always entertained the full room. More often than not the crowd was dancing along to the bass lines that literally shook the old church’s roof. Self-describing their music as “Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel,” they mixed world beats with the ranging vocals of all three members for an eclectic mix.

Highlights from the night included “Ambling Alp” and “Longevity,” the second being in support of their latest release, both of which filled the cavernous Tabernacle with a mix that at worst could be described as odd and powerful. But in reality the only word to truly describe the experience was awesome – not in the modern sense of the word, but in the classic, truly invoking sense, awe-some.

Yeasayer is a band whose music is best experienced at full blast to the extent that it could be detrimental to your aural health. The vibrations sweeping through your body are a necessary part of a great listening to Yeasayer. Live they blast the music plenty loud, but they also add to the experience holistically.

Along with the band members themselves, Yeasayer also brought along a plethora of lights, lasers, mirrors and other gadgets. They controlled the concert visually as well as musically, with lights reflecting everywhere in time with the music. They were careful to bring attention to the fact that the lights were live and not programmed, so they could be tailored to each unique rendition.

The only real disappointment of the night was a subpar rendition of one of their most popular songs, “O.N.E.” The vocals for this song were handed from the usual lead vocalist Chris Keating to Anand Wilder, who also sang the album version. This time though the high vocals ended up being pitchy and nothing connected. This was also the only time the lighting went to the detriment of a song by simply plunging the audience in darkness at the climatic choruses of the song.

But the real surprise of the night was how Yeasayer managed to transform the oblique and inaccessible songs on their latest album into the intricate and interesting works they were meant to be. It was easy to distinguish between their old and new material, because the music became markedly less danceable and honestly more than a little “out-there.”

But it was during these breaks that Yeasayer showed how they have grown as a band, and what the songs like “Reagan’s Skeleton” were meant to sound like. They offered a listening and thinking experience, albeit perhaps best for those who were not quite there in the head.

A special treat for fans was the band’s playing one of their non-album releases “Tightrope,” from a compilation for AIDS relief. They also played plenty of songs for the faithful, harking back to their 2007 debut of All Hour Cymbals.

A concert with Yeasayer proves why they have grown so much in popularity in recent years and the true talent that lies beneath their weirdness. Even though their latest album was a poor reflection of their potential and seemed to put a damper on their growing careers, the live versions of the songs show them as they should be – not just listened to, but experienced. Hopefully, they can capture this on record once again, but it’s nice to know that at least their live shows will always be awe-some.