Brooklyn’s Yeasayer delivered a powerful set of rock ’n’ roll Saturday night at Upstate Concert Hall — complete with psychedelic undertones, ’80s attitude and one killer light show.
The quartet’s nearly 90-minute performance was all about the atmosphere. Those aforementioned lights were in effect before the band ever took the stage, swathing the stage in an eerie blue glow to start as the half-full crowd cheered in anticipation. Throughout the evening it was hard to get a glimpse of the band’s individual members, depending on your angle, as the ever-present lights blurred out details, changing from blue to green to pink to yellow often in the course of a single song.
And then there was the music itself, which did even more to set the spacey mood. Taking the stage at 9:15, the band launched into the pounding synths of “Blue Paper” to start, immediately showcasing keyboardist Chris Keating and guitarist Anand Wilder’s falsetto harmonies. The two switched off on lead vocals, but the best moments came when they sang together, as they did on this song.
Wilder’s effected guitar and Keating’s icy lines soared over the rock-solid rhythm provided by bassist Ira Wolf Tuton and new drummer Cale Parks, creating an ambitious wall of sound that steamrolled the audience on the shifting epic “Henrietta.”
Yeasayer’s electronica-meets-rock is a familiar sound in the indie music world these days — comparisons to such bands as MGMT, Bell X1 or Saratoga Springs’ own Phantogram wouldn’t be off the mark. This quartet makes its mark in songcraft, which maintains a strong footing in classic rock despite the swirling ’80s synths and jackhammer rhythms.
Live, the hooks came to fiery life — “2080” upped the rock quotient in the band’s musical mix with anthemic guitar work from Wilder and Keating’s rock star antics on the lead vocal mic up front, while “O.N.E.” married a heavy groove to a heraldic chorus, punching out with a serene melodic section.
The band really hit its stride in the second half of the set, plowing through “Demon Road” and the almost folksy “Wait For the Summer” as the crowd danced at a feverish pitch. The best of the night came at the end of the main set, with the darkly humorous “Reagan’s Skeleton” giving way to the band’s breakthrough single from 2009, “Ambling Alp.”
Fellow Brooklynites Sinkane, led by Sudanese singer-songwriter Ahmed Gallab, opened the show with their own atmospheric blend of classic and indie rock. The four-piece stretched out on just six songs in 40 minutes, bringing things into epic jam band territory at times before always returning to the groove. Best of all was the hip-hop/funk tinged “Runnin’” that closed out the band’s set with an energetic, and highly danceable, bang.