I hadn’t seen Clap Your Hands Say Yeah since Langerado ’06
, following the blog-hyped release of their impeccable 2005 self-titled debut, which grabbed my heart and made me a fan, initially anyway. I wasn't as jazzed by the albums that followed — Some Loud Thunder
in 2007 and 2011's Hysterical
— but when one of my girlfriends insisted we go to the band's Thursday night show at Orpheum
, I was down despite my hesitation, especially after digging up the old LP, which made me remember why I fell in love with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in the first place – those wildly distinctive yodel-howling vocals of frontman/songwriter Alec Ounsworth, the inherently danceable indie rock rhythms, and the inherent stand-alone strength of each track along with the cohesive quirkiness and charm of the album as a whole. While the NPR stream of just-released Only Run didn't excite me much, I did like its jittery synth-aggressive loudness and appreciated the guests he collabed with on a few tracks — turntable rocker Kid Koala ("Cover Up") and The National's Matt Berninger ("Coming Down").
The formative lineup is no longer, and Ounsworth remains as the main driving force behind Clap Your Hands Say Yeah along with one other hold-out, Sean Greenhalgh, though the latter didn't seem to be in attendance this tour and Ounsworth was joined by three players I didn't recognize — one on drums, the other two on synths, guitar and bass. Ultimately, it made no difference to the overall quality of a show that turned out to be rather rocking, fun, dynamic and full of dancing fans. Yes, on this night, the kids were getting down, a few hundred scattered around the Orpheum in bopping and swaying clusters.
It helped that Ounsworth drew just as healthily from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
as he did from his other three albums, sprinkling the material throughout the set to keep the energy pumping (those songs still got the most animated response) and usually following newer cuts with elder ones. Ounsworth's vocals still have that distinctive tonal quality, and if he's a bit more restrained in his delivery, he's also more controlled and focused when he does choose to wail and shout. And even though he must've played the early tracks thousands upon thousands of times, he managed to make them sound fresh, altering the vocals a bit here or upping the tempo there. It didn't hurt that his back-up band was tight and enthusiastic, especially the bassist, who had the widest and most infectious smile on his face the entire time.
I was't familiar with much of what was played that night other than the old cuts — "Is This Love," "In This Home on Ice," "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" "Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)" and "Gimme Some Salt" among them — but the most memorable moment of the night came during one of the few non-debut cuts I knew, Some Loud Thunder
's "Satan Said Dance," which prompted a particularly hilarious shout-along; at one point, Ounsworth handed a front row fan the mic and let him scream the "Satan!!!!" refrain directly into it.
The band closed the show with arguably one of their better-known tracks and a personal favorite, "On This Tidal Wave of Young Blood," which was great enough on its own and would've left me feeling happy even without an encore. But they returned and played a few more songs, the last being another oldie but goodie, "Heavy Metal."
I became a re-believer in Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on this night. Not only because they got us bopping, clapping and singing a mere two songs deep into their set, but because we wore shit-eating grins the entire time, long enough that my cheeks were hurting by the end of the night.