Gig of the Week: Beck and Yeah Yeah Yeahs in Dublin

Style-straddling singer and indie-punk trio make for odd but intriguing double bil

Beck: from the electro-funk of Midnite Vultures to the grunge-folk of Sea Change, he’s got all the  bases covered. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Beck: from the electro-funk of Midnite Vultures to the grunge-folk of Sea Change, he’s got all the bases covered. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

 

Co-headline shows are not unheard of, but usually they’re nominal in nature, with one act head and shoulders over the other in terms of pulling power. One might argue that Beck could fill out the 3Arena on his own, but that’s being overly generous to a fine musician and songwriter who has never really crossed over to the mainstream. You could say the same about Yeah Yeah Yeahs – in their heyday they might have filled a venue of 3Arena’s size, but not now.

The two acts are, in many ways, on equal footing, despite Beck’s 13 album releases trouncing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ four. The acts also equal each other in terms of indie appeal: Beck, a style-straddler, ripped jeans, cooler-than-thou, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, inarguably one of the hippest and brightest female-fronted punk/pop acts of the past 15 years.

You would wonder, though, exactly why the two acts are conjoined for one gig. It could, of course, be no more than a logistical convenience that this package has been put together for the Irish market, as both acts are scheduled to perform on separate days next weekend at London’s All Points East Festival – Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Friday May 25th, as support to LCD Soundsystem; Beck on Sunday May 27th as support to Björk. Whatever the reason (and, yes, we suspect that booking agents and promoters thought it would make sense to pair the two together in Dublin to offset expenses involved in bringing them across the Atlantic) you can’t deny the specific appeal of each.

Garage punk

Yeah Yeah Yeahs formed in New York City 18 years ago, with lead singer/frontwoman Karen Orzolek, drummer Brian Chase and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Zinner quickly clicking over a mutual love of garage punk, art-rock and post-punk. Supporting the likes of The Strokes and The White Stripes, YYYs soon became noted for their sandblasting blend of trashy punk and glitzy pop, but while Orzolek’s fashion sense (her onstage outfits were designed by her friend Christian Joy) transplanted the band from dive bars to glossy magazines, their music also took off. In 2003, their debut album, Fever to Tell, was released and went on to sell over one million copies worldwide. Now back in the game after a lengthy hiatus (their last album was 2013’s Mosquito), YYYs look set to make a glam/punk splash like few other acts of their era.

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs: a sandblasting blend of trashy punk and glitzy pop. Photograph: Karl Walter/Getty Images
Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs: a sandblasting blend of trashy punk and glitzy pop. Photograph: Karl Walter/Getty Images

Beck, on the other hand, doesn’t need to make a splash, as he has rarely been away since he released his debut album (Golden Feelings) in 1993. From 1994’s Mellow Gold to last year’s Colors, he has been a relatively consistent presence, if not in the charts then certainly in the foreground. His method of using a collage approach to songwriting (other people might call it “magpie”) has ensured his status as a songwriter who covers all bases. In truth, Beck is as close to being a master of all of them as anyone can be, and there are very few songwriters alive (indeed, if any) that can fuse dirty funk (1999’s Midnite Vultures) with sublime retro-folk (2002’s Sea Change) with as much vitality and conviction.

Of course, despite collective nonchalance towards such things, what all of us really want to see towards the end of the gig is Karen O and Beck cosy up on a song or two. Curiously enough, they shared the same stage a few years ago during a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction tribute to Lou Reed, singing (respectively) Vicious and Satellite of Love. Could there be a cooler NYC moment in Dublin than the pair duetting on Walk on the Wild Side and/or Perfect Day? Make it happen.

Beck & Yeah Yeah Yeahs play the 3Arena Dublin on Wednesday May 23rd

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