Many music fans probably still associate Seattle with the flannel-swathed mope-rock of the grunge era, but when the Yahoo! On the Road tour swung through the famously gray city on Sunday night, it was a total dance party in the USA.
Yahoo! On the Road's most whopping lineup yet, featuring four very different but equally high-energy acts, practically turned Seattle's historic, century-old Moore Theatre into a discotheque. From swaggery pop-a-billy to emo-tinged hip-pop, from synthy yacht rock to divalicious disco-punk, there was something to get even the most rhythmically challenged, two-left-footed concertgoer moving and grooving.
Kicking off the epic evening was natty New Zealander Willy Moon, who managed to cram eight short, sharp songs into his 20-minute set without ever breaking a sweat. Looking like Berlin-era Bowie and sounding equal parts Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Jon Spencer, and Bruno Mars, indie rock's new matinee idol definitely impressed (and dressed to impress).
A highlight of Willy's show was his cover of Rudy Toombs's 1950s classic "Shakin'," which was also recently covered by Willy's friend and onetime Third Man Records boss, Jack White. (Can Willy and Jack ever participate in a "Shakin'"-off showdown someday? I have no idea who'd win — the real winners would really be anyone lucky enough to witness it — but it sure would be awesome.) However, it was Willy's ubiquitous iPod ad song, "Yeah Yeah," that unsurprisingly elicited the biggest "yeahs!" from the early crowd.
Generating an even more enthusiastic response was adrenaline-surging, endlessly energetic Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots, who had the audience repeatedly shouting the number "21!" until the Moore Theatre sounded like the blackjack area of a high-rolling casino. As Tyler Joseph and Josh Hun took the stage in face-shrouding skeleton hoodies, they were instantly greeted with fans' cries of "I LOVE YOU!" And they returned the love, announcing, "These songs mean a lot to us, so we're gonna play them really, really hard."
And that they did. During their breathless half-hour set, Tyler climbed atop a balcony, jumped off a perilously high amplifier, and serenaded the adoring audience with a ukulele on an ode to his mom called "House of Gold." Josh was no slouch, either, relentlessly pounding the skins and only stopping long enough to execute an Olympian backflip in the center of the stage.
"You guys are in the band with us," they told the crowd. "We're just a couple guys who play music that means a lot to us, and sometimes the songs are a little weird. Thanks for liking our weird songs….We truly believe there's nowhere else on earth we'd rather be than playing music for you." Aw.
This was obviously a tough act to follow, but L.A.'s synth-tinkling soft rockers Capital Cities (think Chromeo, Phoenix, MGMT, Poolside, maybe a very Americanized version of Daft Punk) were up for the challenge.
Not only did Capital Cities' core duo of Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian hire an amazingly fierce, blue-coiffed, speaker-cabinet-climbing trumpet player named Spencer Ludwig who brought new meaning to the term "brassy." Not only did Ryan and Sebu bust out some sweet synchronized dance moves and even give the crowd a little crash-course Hustle lesson. Not only were all the band members wearing totally awesome band-logo-stamped Danny Zuko jackets that really should've been available for sale at the merch booth. And not only did they manage to sing a song that mentioned both "Farrah Fawcett" and "Nutella" in the chorus.
No, Capital Cities also played three very inspired, and very unexpected, covers: a Hi-NRG version of the Sinead O'Connor/Prince weeper "Nothing Compares 2 U," a slow-jam remake of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," and an electro rendition of Madonna's "Holiday." Said Sebu, "Yeah, we went there." I was so glad they did.
But all of this still sort of seemed like a warm-up for the night's main attraction: punk-dance partystarters Gossip, featuring frontgoddess Beth Ditto in all her velveteen-onesie'd, ripped-pantyhosed glory. ("Beyoncé could learn a thing or two from me about how to wear her pantyhose," Beth quipped in her deliciously thick Arkansas drawl, as her emergency pair of hose, a last-minute purchase from Target, shredded at seams, punk-rock-style.)
Playing her "last show as an unmarried woman" before she weds her longtime girlfriend in Hawaii next week ("It's still illegal in my home state, but that's okay; love conquers all," Beth told the cheering crowd), the always chipper Ditto seemed in an especially upbeat mood this Sunday. She sang snippets of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5," Donna Summer's "She Works Hard For the Money," Sade's "Smooth Operator," and, in the night's second tribute to Madonna, "La Isla Bonita." She sang "Happy Birthday" to a lucky front-row fan named Natalie, while decorating herself with fresh peonies tossed onstage by another fan. She made a random but welcome reference to Paula Abdul's old sidekick, MC Skat Kat. And she and the band even treated the crowd to a brand-new, yet-untitled song that surely whetted fans' appetites for the follow-up to last year's A Joyful Noise.
While Beth, who's known for stripping down to her skivvies onstage, stayed fully clothed this time ("If I went topless, I'd have to go bottomless," she explained, pointing to her one-piece leotard), in all other ways this was the type of euphoric and celebratory show fans have come to expect from Gossip. And it was the perfect closer to Yahoo! On the Road's sleepless-in-Seattle, Sunday-night-fever dance extravaganza.
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