In the way a statistician might present data on a chart, Karen O’s hair — a blond bob of sorts with black roots shaved underneath — tells you a lot about a Yeah Yeah Yeahs performance.
When it’s in disarray and completely covering her face, as it was five songs into the band’s sold-out show at the House of Blues Sunday night, she’s about to go nuclear. Stand back. Her yelps and short, sharp gasps for air become part of the percussion.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are more than a decade removed from the self-titled EP that announced their fierce arrival on New York’s indie-rock scene in 2001. The jagged edges that initially made singer Karen O, guitarist-keyboardist Nick Zinner, and drummer Brian Chase so brittle have been buffered a bit over the years, but they really haven’t strayed that far from their origins. It’s the scope of the music that has evolved — and for the better.
As if to prove that point, Yeah Yeahs Yeahs opened with the one-two punch of new and old. From “Mosquito,” their latest release, “Sacrilege” was a taut, moody rocker that used a backing track to re-create the unlikely gospel choir heard on the record. From there they went right into “Black Tongue” from their 2003 full-length debut, “Fever to Tell.” A stream of metallic confetti popped over the crowd within 10 minutes; clearly no one was worried about peaking too soon.
Even at a lean 70 minutes, which is really all this band needs to do its job, the performance was hellbent on pleasing fans. It was surprising to remember just how many hits (well, for indie rock) the trio has racked up, and they were all on full, throbbing display: “Heads Will Roll,” “Cheated Hearts,” “Zero,” “Gold Lion.”
Strangely enough, a fight apparently erupted in the audience during “Maps,” which is perhaps the group’s most tender song. That was not lost on Karen O, who stopped the band mid-song to break it up. “This is a song for lovers, man,” she said with palpable disappointment. The offenders were promptly ejected out a side door, and the song — and its hushed singalong — continued.