karenosml.jpgLast weekend the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played their first shows in the New York area since opening for Devo at Summerstage in 2004. They have a new album on the horizon and scheduled a few small and quickly sold out club dates to showcase the new material. I was fortunate to snag tickets to see them at Maxwells in Hoboken on Thursday and the Bowery Ballroom on Friday.

Of the two I attended, Maxwells was the far inferior show. Once I got past the fact that I was seeing these guys in a 200 capacity bar/grill in New Jersey, I really was never able to truly enjoy myself. The crowd was chatty and the room was unbearably hot. The new songs didn't make a very strong impression on me at first listen and the selection of old songs seemed a bit rusty. Everything just felt off. You would expect shows like this to be buzzing with anticipation! People have waited nearly 2 years to see these guys again! They were playing new material for the first time! Despite the incomparable Karen O's best efforts, the show just seemed…mediocre. I got the sense that most of the room felt the same way. It was tough to admit it on the PATH back to Manhattan, but I went home rather disappointed.

Unbelievably, the crowd was even worse on Friday night at Bowery. They were not only disaffected, but outright rude. There was a vicious and extended BOO when Karen O mentioned she moved to LA. Some dipshit in front of me kept on yelling for Ballroom Blitz, as if some third rate derivative opening band was on stage. Fortunately, the band's performance was at a completely different level that night. Perhaps it helped hearing the new songs for a second time, but every track jumped out at me the way I expected it to. Nick Zinner’s guitar had the biting edge that made those songs off Fever to Tell so intense, whereas the night before he just seemed muted and off. Friday they were definitely up on all cylinders. It felt special, which is the way these guys are supposed to be.

After two takes, I really did like what I heard. The new songs are a minor change in direction for these kids. A bit more subdued at times. The addition of guitar player Imaad Wasif to the live show added a fantastic and unexpected folky acoustic element. His performance on the brand new barnburner ‘Turn Into’ was mighty impressive. I hope they keep him around.

These guys are gonna have a gigantic 2006 with the new album next month and a major tour in the spring. They’ll be back at Roseland in May with the new stuff all polished up and ready to serve.