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March 7, 2004
THE SIZEUP
You have two bands that may or may not be deserving of all the hype they receive, playing together in a huge open-air venue that may or may not provide adequate sound and visual experience - the two crucial elements to a successful show. Investigate, ponder, rinse, and repeat. Well, I will never doubt the Yeah Yeah Yeahs again, that's for sure. And while the White Stripes proved their mettle, their shtick became a bit tiresome as the hour and a half mark drew close.

THE RUNDOWN
My arrival was timed impeccably; right as I found my row of seats, the stage lights darkened leaving three Y's illuminated on the back-drop, one on top of the other. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs took the stage, Karen O prowling around incessantly as she would the entire show, dressed in formfitting black mini and ratty fishnets. Guitarist Nick Zinner barely looked at the crowd once during the set, his rail thin arms firmly wrapped around his guitar in a way that prompted my friend to remark that he looked like he needed a sandwich. No doubt Zinner would have refused that sandwich, defiantly tearing songs new and old from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs limited catalogue and emitted short bursts of effected guitar work.

The trio, firmly rooted by the tight yet spare drumming of Brian Chase, manages to create a big live sound that uses the spaces that are inevitable with a guitar and drums based band (something that the White Stripes do a bit less effectively). The key ingredient here is O. In not such a long time she has become a serious frontwoman/rockstar; every move that she carelessly makes seems plotted but natural, from her limited banter to her "Fuck you/ who cares/ we can do whatever we want" attitude. It's a joy to watch and draws you in despite yourself. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' set drew mostly from their recent (and surprisingly excellent) album Fever To Tell, with a few selections ("Art Star," for example) from their scattered EPs. Fever To Tell provides the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with a few lovely tunes, including the power ballad "Y Control" and the mopey "Modern Romance," as well as the requisite snotty rockers. All styles were pulled off equally well, ensuring that the White Stripes would have quite a bit to live up to. And they almost managed to.

I have never been a big fan of the White Stripes, not because of their popularity or their ubiquitous magazine appearances. Their music just doesn't speak to me the way it does to millions of others. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to get a chance to see them live, and I issued an unspoken challenge towards them to impress the shit out of me. The first twenty minutes of their set flew by in a fury, Jack commanding the stage and the communication between the two, as they played song after song with barely a halt in between. At one point, his keyboards collapsed on the stage after leaning against them a bit too hard, and eager roadies finally had some work to rush out and do.

The highlights of the set were the spare moments; Meg stepping out in front of the microphone to sing "In the Cold Cold Night," accompanied only by Jack's guitar, and the simple "We're Going to Be Friends." The guitar raveups were dramatic but lasted a bit too long at times, and it seemed that the communication was lost occasionally between the two. The set wore on and on and perhaps only due to my status as "not a real fan," it grew tiresome after a while. Most around me seemed to disagree as they matched their energy to that of the Stripes.

THE SUMMATION
Well, I've done it. I've seen the Stripes and the Yeahs, and the Yeahs kicked the Stripes' collective ass. While there is no need for me to see the pair again, I am a better man for having done so once. If nothing else, seeing a band like the White Stripes live helps one to understand them better than just seeing their videos on MTV or listening to their singles on the airwaves of a local Clear Channel affiliate. On the other hand I still don't know if I completely understand the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, maybe even less now, but one certainly does not need to understand their sulky snot-rock to enjoy it. The cause has been furthered and their star continues to shine grimily.

SEE ALSO: www.whitestripes.com
SEE ALSO: www.yeahyeahyeahs.com

--
Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other articles by Jonah Flicker.

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