Katsina dolls are Hopi American Indian relics believed to have supernatural qualities in order to bring rain, halt sun, exercise control over all things earthly, and ultimately act as messenger betwixt spiritual world and mere mortal.
And after last night’s gig in The Orpheum, Karen O., in my humble opinion, can proudly declare that she doesn’t just pull off a costume; she may very well have similar powers…over an audience of gig go-ing devotees of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
As Ms. O strutted on stage below a hovering, giant eyeball that seemed to bore into the backs of all our heads, my sister turned to me and declared, “She looks like a Katsina!” as she shimmied across the stage, posed, and gently lifted a foot to reveal a brilliant suede moccasin nothing like those freakish slippers trendy girls like to wear these days. Frocked in draped robes covered in robust, geometric designs over blue hued tights and a woven bit of cloth draped as shirt and pants all together, she surely looked like she took inspiration from those dolls that have adorned my childhood home for as long as I can remember.
When you are Native American, you never dream your most favorite front woman would take inspiration in relics of your culture. If I needed more reason to bow at Karen’s feet, I got it last night.
Blistering through a set that mixed angelic slow tunes with the pummeling yealps and grunts that made her famous, Yeah Yeah Yeahs managed to pay homage to all of their albums while ushering in ab era of glam with tracks like Shell Shock and Zero.
During humble blogger’s favorite track off It’s Blitz!, “Skeletons”, the giant eyeball gave way to a soothing full moon and Karen O exercised her pipes in ways never seen before; she went from a spitting, swaggering, feisty brute to an ethereal, visceral and absolutely delicate singer right before us. It was transcendent.
Of course, they played the classics with an uncanny exuberance as if they were anxious to debut a whole bunch of genius they have been crafting for years–Maps was dedicated to the lovely Nick Zinner (…still want to have his…ah, never mind.) and his Boston family, while the crowd gleefully bounced and roared to “Honeybear”, “Gold Lion”, “Cheated Hearts”, and “Turn Into”.
But nothing was more thrilling than the encore, received after Zinner famously snapped photos of the crowd from various angles and with various camera-ing devices; Karen O, strutting out to a completely dark theater in what looked like a Zombie mask covered in tubing lit up with florescent red liquid, immediately kicked into “Heads Will Roll”.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs has long been one of my favorite acts; after last night’s gig, I think I can, hands down, argue it is my favorite act that is still performing and creating records as a band…today.
File Under: I know, what I know…Karen O and co. couldn’t come back sooner. The heads, they’ll roll.