Live: Yeah Yeah Yeahs Play MOMA’s Party in the Garden


Party in the Garden, featuring the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Tuesday, May 25

They didn’t bust out “Art Star” (too self-effacing for the young moneyeds?) but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ acoustic set was a wholly perfect centerpiece to the regal MOMA Party in the Garden post-festivities. Held in the museum’s balmy, beautiful sculpture garden, with jewel-tone spotlights shining off the reflection pond and geometric installations, the fundraising gala feted its 25th anniversary on Tuesday evening with Chuck Close, Hugh Jackman, and an open bar of melon margaritas that had a lot of post-modern haircuts mussed by midnight.

The YYYs rarely play acoustic, and were adjusting to the absence of drummer Brian Chase–“He’s in Australia, jazz drumming,” said Karen O, fluttering her sequined caftan effusively and giggling to convey her opinion of such endeavors–but their performance was prettily muted without losing any authenticity. Softly cooing through opener “Our Time,” Karen swayed between guitarist Nick Zinner, seated in front of their substitute percussionist (who you can’t convince me was not Judah Friedlander) and a small cluster of string accompanists. Her voice transferred beautifully to the subdued arrangements, and Zinner’s finger picking balanced her occasional missteps–a slow offering from the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack was too torpid for the tipsy crowd–and by the newer catalogue offerings of “Cheated Hearts” and “Zero,” Karen was jumping in place and beaming, and the audience was fully, giddily cheering.

It’s always a bit unsettling to see Karen O live–not because she doesn’t deliver the albums’ full promise, because she does, but because she still smiles so relentlessly, every bit as much as when I first saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in San Francisco almost a decade ago. As she grinned through every beat of the wrenching breakup ballad “Y Control,” it was difficult last evening, as always, to reconcile her tragic words with her reassuring gaze. Her heart is gutted, but her lips are curled? We should all be so artful.