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Live review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs are positively explosive

The band, performing at Pomona's Glass House as a possible rehearsal for a Coachella gig in April, keeps the capacity crowd dancing deliriously.

January 14, 2013|By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • The Yeah Yeah Yeahs in New York City in 2009.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs in New York City in 2009. (Jennifer S. Altman / For…)

This post has been updated. See below for details.

A number of factors contributed to the power of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' show in Pomona on Friday night. Among them: the fans, the venue, the spirit, the sound, the moshing, the opening band, the headliners and the casual feeling that we were all at a rehearsal space hanging out.

Appearing in a warm-up show in advance of their forthcoming fourth album, which arrives in the spring, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the hub around which all this positive action occurred. The trio, which rose in New York City, has for over a dozen years solidified its place as one of the world's most thrilling punk-rock bands. With the dissolution of LCD Soundsystem, they represent to the masses NYC dance-rock these days too.

Splitting hairs, perhaps — punk is also dance music — but the way that singer Karen O, guitarist Nick Zinner, drummer Brian Chase and touring guitarist David Pajo expelled precisely tangled rebel music on songs from throughout their career, including "Heads Will Roll" from their most recent album, "It's Blitz," "Gold Lion" and their scream-along breakthrough, "Maps," was a feat of both aggression and anti-inhibition. Their combination of big riffs and rhythms spawned both funked-up noggin nodding and amped-up crowd surfing.

Why, exactly, were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a band able to pack Los Angeles venues triple the size of the Glass House, gigging inland instead? Mostly logistics. The group hasn't toured since 2009 and hasn't released a record since "It's Blitz" that same year but is preparing for a busy 2013 that begins later this week in Australia with the annual Big Day Out festival. As one of the headliners, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were making a pit stop to do a run-through and spit out 13 songs that will likely be replicated there.

Also, the band is expected to be in and around the Coachella Valley in April; the joke among the in-the-know was that the Glass House gig was also serving as a rehearsal for a certain forthcoming festival appearance 100 miles east on Interstate 10.

So it's more fair to treat this particular YYY gig as a kind of "soft-opening" rather than as an official show to be critically assessed. But however it's approached, the band burst with an explosive night of joy during which it tore through gems — "Soft Shock," "Pins," "Down Boy" among them — to 800 fans, some of whom had been waiting out front since 7 a.m.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn't seem to be returning from any sort of hiatus. During the break, Karen O composed music for film (Spike Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are"), sang with David Lynch, the Flaming Lips and Swans, among others, and retained her place as one of music's most compelling style icons. Her vicious yelp, which sometimes borders on cartoonish, hasn't lost its edge, remaining as cutting and freakish as ever.

The kids in the audience barked out words that make little sense on paper but rule when screamed. Crowd surfers rode like it was 1991. One fan sported a well-tended round Afro that bounced atop the crowd like a beach ball.

The jumbo hairdo, in fact, belonged to Anaiah Lei, drummer for the frantic fraternal duo the Bots, who opened the show. Lei and his brother, the magnetic, wiry singer-guitarist Mikaiah Lei, nailed the slot. Both are still in their teens, and they kicked out a shockingly great, carefree set of trashy, two-man garage-punk — loose and raucous but assured.

The Bots are from Glendale, have played as part of the Warped Tour and last year landed a slot on Blur frontman Damon Albarn's Africa Express tour. Immensely talented, they were a perfect lead-in to the headliners — no small feat, indeed.

Updated, Jan. 14, 7:27 a.m.: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have announced that their new album is called 'Mosquito,' and will be released on April 16. 

randall.roberts@latimes.com

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