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December 10, 2004
TELL ME WHAT ROCKERS TO SWALLOW // Rating: 8/10

A set of wavy red curtains, draped at the back of a dimly lit stage, is the only element of subtlety that will show itself in the next hour at San Francisco's Fillmore Theater. Two characters saunter out from stage left, and although they are barely visible in the dark, a hungry crowd explodes in cat-calls and cheering. The individuals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner and Brian Chase, handle the situation in a businesslike manner. They don't even react to the crowd's presence until Zinner pulls a guitar strap over his head and sheepishly approaches a microphone to give a modest "Hi."

Without additional formalities, Zinner launches into a looping, pingy guitar riff, creating satellite blips and sunrise rapture. Chase follows suit as he gallops a hi-hat rhythm and raises the anticipation of the room to a minor pandemonium. The energy of eagerness and anxiety brings the crowd to an intoxicated-like euphoric state. Let's face it - many of the attendees are probably ossified anyways. The band members slouch and begin to play their dissonant party-anthem intro "Y-Control." The crowd acknowledges the song and without delay, immersed into mini body-rocking, head-shaking trances. Zinner's guitar grows and rumbles with a slow punk rock style progression of hairy, low notes. Chase piles on a moving disco/rock beat.

To the unknowing, the scene is set - band rocking, crowd grooving. Game, set, match. To nearly everyone attending the March 16th 2004 show, something is missing. Then, in a streak of glimmering fabric, faux femme mullet and Converse All-Stars, Karen O runs across the stage and to her place, which is really no place if not all over that stage. The crowd's initial reaction to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' instrumental foreplay becomes dwarfed by all-out adoration and delight for Karen O and her many antics.

So starts the live element of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new DVD release, Tell Me What Rockers to Swallow. The DVD not only includes a lengthy set of 16 songs from the March 16th show - 12 main set, 4 encore - but also 6 bonus songs from another performance, behind the scenes footage, music videos, interviews, and a performance of "Maps" from the MTV Movie Awards.

The Fillmore performance is defined by O's appearance and interaction with the sonic noises created by Zinner and Chase. For one, she is wearing an eclectic wardrobe of ripped white pantyhose, a metallic cocktail dress, black bicycling glove on one hand and a green sequin bowtie around an ankle.

The more important part of her appearance is what she does rather than what she wears. O struts around stage, a female Mick Jagger, with the same self-confidence and crowd frenzying hip shake to her repertoire. One minute she is posing; leg stretched up on a stage monitor with her arms slowly flowing in martial arts movements and in the next she is sprawled on the floor (in exhaustion or theatrics, or perhaps both). Her energy also has childlike qualities to it, shown after she giggles, crawls, and spits grapes, beer and water for unknown reasons.

On the whole, the live segment seems artistically calculated. The editing of the footage is tight and the camera always seems to capture the most crucial points (a crowd-view of a swinging microphone that Karen O knocks from its stand, footage of background action as Chase blasts drumsticks on cymbals as if he were hitting a baseball; Zinner's serene creativity on guitar and feedback).

High points of the performance can be found during the radio friendly "Maps" and the show's climax point, "Date with the Night." These moments show the band at their most emotionally vulnerable and concurrently at Karen O's most talkative between tracks. She introduces "Maps" by screaming, "This song is about LOOOOVE!", and then, following the emotional outpouring, breaks through to the crowd during "Date with the Night" and yells, "Come on, fuck…You make me so happy, come on!"

During Tell Me What Rockers to Swallow, the concert portion holds its own as the main attraction, but the supplemental footage gives an even better idea for what the band is all about. Included are Japan tour footage and crowd interviews by Spike Jonze. Additionally notable are the band's four music videos, one of which
("Pins") was directed by TV on the Radio's Tunde Adepimbe.

---
SEE ALSO > www.yeahyeahyeahs.com

--
Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other articles by Josh Zanger.

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