Karen O is The Greatest.
Five words. That’s all anyone needs to sum up the first day of All Point East’s debut year. Why would we need any more?
There are many fine bands playing Victoria Park today. There’s the festival conquering pineapple vibes of Glass Animals, the quirky collective brain dump of Superorganism and the all-out party pop of Confidence Man. Later, Phoenix will deliver a pitch-perfect set of Francophile brilliance. But they’re not the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They don’t have Karen O. Who is, remember, The Greatest.
It’s been five years since the band last played London. It feels like ten, so starved have we been of their visceral, primal strut. Maybe we’ve got complacent in that time, but they certainly haven’t. Opener ‘Y Control’ is a technicolour moment in a sepia-filtered world – so brash and bright it feels fresher now than it did more than a decade ago. Flanked by a still-cooler-than-you Nick Zinner and permanently grinning Brian Chase, Lady O doesn’t have any time for standoffish East London cool. Confident enough to emblazon her rear with her own name, she’s out to have fun – and what she commands, the crowd obeys.
Every song is a hit. ‘Pin’ is a frenetic delight, while ‘Gold Lion’ becomes an echoed back shaker hymn. ‘Zero’ and ‘Heads Will Roll’ are dance-tactic gems to challenge all comers, while ‘Maps’ remains one of the glimmering highlights of the last twenty years, almost impossible to match.
Almost, because this is a double bill of NYC icons. LCD Soundsystem might be the only band able to live with Yeah Yeah Yeahs in this form. The same, but very different, they’re two bands born from the same world but taking differing routes. In a way, they’re both punk – they both complement each other perfectly – but while Karen O is all movement and action, James Murphy is something different. No lesser force, it’s a more understated genius that refuses to be cowed by sisters and brothers in arms.
In many ways, LCD Soundsystem aren’t a mere band. Like visiting an alien world more advanced than our own, they’re a telepathic circuit. Each individual element, from Pat Mahoney’s peerless drumming to Nancy Whang’s iconic synth skills, sits at the top of their class, but together they become more than just those singular talents. Murphy isn’t a frontman so much as a conducting circuit in a fantastical machine. Both focal point and backseat driver, it remains one of the most mesmerising sights in live music.
It’s also why, on stage, every note is transformed. Though on record LCD Soundsystem sit in an almost peerless bracket, in the live arena those standout moments become something more. Sharper, more pronounced, they find hooks in grooves, grooves in vibes, and vibes that become hooks themselves. ‘You Wanted A Hit’, by its end, is exactly what was initially requested. ‘Tribulations’ is a blast of energy, while ‘Call The Police’ proves LCD’s second era can be just as essential as the first.
It’s the closer we’re all waiting for, though. When we say Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’ is without master, there’s always a small asterisk for ‘All My Friends’. More than just a song, it’s the moment that keeps repeating. Tonight is no different. New York, we love you, and we’ll never come down.