It has been nearly three years since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut, and at first blush, “Show Your Bones” (Interscope), due in stores March 28, is a portrait of a band at sea. You can admire the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for not wanting to repeat themselves and release “More Fever to Tell,” but instead of building on their strengths, the band strikes a desperate note, flailing around trying to find a style that works.
At the first of two sold-out nights, oddly enough, the band appeared to have a better handle on the new material. It’s possible the band needed to perform the songs live to find their center. “Honeybear” is an overdriven Eastern European dance, “Phenomenon” lurches along like vintage Led Zeppelin and the unhinged raw rockabilly of “Mysteries” is reminiscent of the Cramps. But not every song works: “Cheated Hearts” is still a lumpy series of riffs looking for a tune.
Lead singer Karen O, always a highly theatrical presence, has toned down her self-consciously naughty outrageousness — which isn’t such a bad thing. She hasn’t lost her riveting stage presence; she’s the sexy but dangerously neurotic girlfriend from college, the one who turned every moment into a private psychodrama.
Nick Zedd on guitar on guitar and Brian Chase on drums retain their fury, but could be better if new member Imaad Wasif were better integrated into the sound.
Immediately preceding the headliners, Bay Area quartet Gris Gris played a majestically aggressive, intensely pummeling version of prog rock. They don’t have many memorable songs, but who needs them when you can build to such a compelling racket?
Opening the show, Lavender Diamond continued to impress with a strong and confident set. Singer Becky Stark has a pure and lovely voice, but her songs roil with untapped emotion, like the calm before a storm.