The tUnE yArDs playing the small stage at the Melkweg on a Thursday night in Amsterdam, the music genre has been described as “Wonky pop” and the instruments used would be a ukulele, some drums and a couple of saxophones. You have to say that is worth a look on its own.
When deciding to venture out to see a band, media hype can be both dangerous and fantastic, especially when Time, Spin and Rolling Stone magazines all had the album “who kill” in their best album releases of last year. Having listened to this album a number of times I never fell in love with it, in fact some of the screeching and hollering made me feel uncomfortable at times. This led me to ponder whether I would either love the live tUnE yArDs experience or I would hate it, I didn’t expect any in between ground.
Thankfully it was the forma and not the latter. They put on a fantastic show. Since the show I have returned to the album again with a massive appreciation for this band, their live performance unlocked it for me musically, I love it when that happens and it is a sign of a great band.
What was the sound like I was asked, and that is not very easy to quantify to be honest. There was a lot of African style rhythm, heaps of word spitting hip hop and a funky horn and bass feel and a splash of reggae.
With the stripe of white paint adorning Merrill Garbus face she set off into an energy packed show. At times her vocals were akin to that of a Zulu warrior uttering a declaration of war. From the moment she took the stage people stopped and listen. Her initial use of recording and looping sounds (on the first song) made me question if she had started talking in tongues. It is also fare to say that drumming and screaming at various pitches and volumes gets every ones focus and sets the rules of engagement with the crowd for the rest of the evening. When Merrill sings you feel it reverberate through your chest.
After her initial piece, she was joined onstage by Nate Brenner who is also sporting a facial stripe across his face (yellow in colour) and two saxophonists, both decked out in black waist coats and they were clearly feeling the soul and funk from the moment they stepped on stage.
Throughout the whole show Merrill looked quite focused on hitting her vocals and those steely “Zulu” eyes piercing out into the crowd. What was also awesome to see, was that every time she turned to look at Nate a smile ran across her face, it looked like she was loving being onstage in Amsterdam, doing what she loved.
And on that what she does is what appears to be a rather complex series of loops and vocals and she uses but her timing and precision to execute her sound it is brilliant. I have seen a number of artist use the overlapping looping to fill their sound but Merrill’s use is much better than most. To do what she did, like she did, you have to have total focus and be sober and I mean 100% sober. I found the show “really blowing my mind” at times throughout the evening.
By the time the band played “You Yes You”, the last song before the encore, the crowd had reached the beautiful blissful moment being completely engrossed in the tunes. The tUnE yArDs had the crowd actually jumping, ¾ of the way through the song the band started jumping (in unison) the crowd followed suit. After the last song, the band returned and dived straight into “Doorstep” kicking off with the soulful duel horns, and whilst we all knew the end was nigh, the crowed reciprocated with applause hoping to keep the band on stage for the rest of the evening.
The evening started with a warrior engaging in a declaration of war and ended with crowd being so engaged that they were ready to go into battle for their band.
I am interested to see what the next album from them will be like, but I really long to see them again soon.