Yeasayer rocks sold-out Madison crowd

Micah Paisner

There is no greater treat than seeing an amazing show at a small venue. I had the privilege of doing just this last Wednesday at Yeasayer’s sold-out show at the Majestic Theater in Madison. The Majestic, a fairly new music venue, holds only 600 people, so if you’re looking for an intimate concert experience, this is your place. I can’t think of a better band than Yeasayer to see in such a venue.
Yeasayer is currently touring behind its sophomore album, “Odd Blood,” which will surely be on the year-end lists of many critics, myself included. The album is a big departure from their first effort, 2007’s “All Hour Cymbals,” which had much more of a Middle Eastern psychedelic feel to it. “Odd Blood,” on the other hand is highly reminiscent of ’80s pop, yet still sounds entirely like Yeasayer.
Sleigh Bells, an up-and-coming buzz band that has yet to release any physical copies of its music, opened the show, taking the stage around 9:15 p.m. The band consists of only two members: Derek E. Miller plays guitar and Alexis Krauss covers the vocals. The band also utilizes dance beats that play in the background from a laptop or drum machine.
The music of Sleigh Bells is not for the light of heart. It’s loud and abrasive, similar to bands like No Age and the newly signed Sub Pop band Happy Birthday. But there’s no denying that they have an extraordinary amount of talent, as they had the Madison crowd enthralled for their entire 25-minute set.
Simply put, Krauss is a performer. She never stopped moving, climbing on top of speakers and even jumping into the crowd. She also bent down frequently so that the people in the front row could feel her hair. Her vocals fit her exuberant personality extremely well, as most of them were screamed.
Krauss also tended to howl into the microphone, emitting a noise reminiscent of a siren. There may not be much lyrically in Sleigh Bells’ songs, but the band makes up for it with energy. Up in the balcony, I was safe from the mosh pit that started to erupt by the end of the set.
At 10:15 p.m., Yeasayer took the stage. The band played in front of four backdrops that simultaneously changed colors, a perfect adornment for the delightfully bizarre group. Seeing them for the second time, I was expecting to see some strange outfits, and I got what I hoped for.
Guitarist Anand Wilder wore a large jumpsuit with floral-like designs, and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton wore the skinniest possible jeans tucked into combat boots, with his signature sleeveless shirt. No other outfits would be more appropriate for such a strange yet incredible band.
The band started their set with “The Children,” the opening track from “Odd Blood.” With distorted, futuristic sounding vocals, the song set the mood for the rest of the show. The band played through all of “Odd Blood” during their hour and a half set, with some older songs thrown in as well.
The way that their older songs and newer songs blended together so organically really impressed me throughout the concert. The albums are entirely different, but live, it would be hard for an unfamiliar listener to tell.
My only complaint was that the band didn’t play many older tracks. The group played all of the standout tracks from “All Hour Cymbals,” such as “Sunrise” and “2080,” but it would have been nice to hear a few other old ones.
The highlight of the show was the wonderfully poppy “O.N.E.” During the song, the audience erupted and the entire theater seemed to shake from all of the people jumping and dancing. By the end of the show, both lead vocalist Chris Keating and Tuton said that the Madison crowd was one of the best they had ever played to. It truly was a show to remember.