Crushworthy: Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen 1

I’m about 99% sure that Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is the long lost love child of David Bowie and Joan Jett. I’d also like to think that Freddie Mercury was employed as her nanny and Aunt Siouxsie came over to write songs and talk about punk life. Man, that would have been a glorious mad hatter household with an amazing record collection and a wardrobe to die for. Just the thought of it turns me on a little bit.

Last night, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played to a sold-out crowd at the Marquee and I developed one hell of a new girl crush. Now, I’ve heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before and I’ve seen Karen O in music videos, but to watch this girl rock out live is a whole different ballgame. She takes over. She makes you want to become a rock star. She makes you sweat. She liberates your molecules.

When we got to the Marquee last night, my friend Jenn and I had made our way through the crowd to the bar right next to the stage. As I was ordering a Kiltlifter, the lights went out, the crowd threw up its collective hands in mayhem, and a glittery figure strode to center stage. I had to check myself for a moment. Woman or man? The figure was androgynous in the best way possible, channeling glam rock and its kick ass costuming.

There was a cape. There was a black and white three-quarter bodysuit. There was an underbust corset with beaded fringe hanging off of it. There were Elton-John-on-crack glasses. Red fingerless gloves. You could see glitter on eyelids from the back of the venue. It was ballsy and beautiful.

To check out this costume in all its glory, scroll through the pictures accompanying a great write-up on the concert on AZ Central.

And then Karen O’s voice exploded into the microphone. She’s got a growl and a screech about her voice that betrays her size. Pure power with a razor sharp edge. You know that Joan Jett scream? She sings in it. And it kills.

During the show, Karen O had a relationship with her microphone that rivaled my most romantic and visceral of relationships. At times it was purely sexual or drug-induced or beautifully manic as Karen O wrapped herself up in the cord and then Houdini-ed her way out of it; a few times it was regal and royal as she held the microphone up in the air like it was being suspended on an invisible pedestal; most of the time, it was just a rocker and her mic – they moved and danced together; and in the end – well, it didn’t end well, at least for the microphone, as Karen swung it in circles by its cord, allowing it to crash into to the stage repeatedly until there was very little microphone left. When it was decimated, she held it up like a victory flag. (There’s a picture of said microphone carcass on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs homepage.)

And then there were Karen’s moments of human transcendence where she turned into a dragon. Though she spouted water instead of fire, it exciting and impressive nonetheless. I lost my shit every time.

Yeah Yeah Yeah

We sang “We Will Rock You” with her (which led into “Gold Lion”) – along with “Zero,” “Man,” “Sacrilege,” and, of course, “Heads Will Roll.”

As part of the encore, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed “Maps,” which Karen sweetly referred to as the Yeahs version of a love song. And it was. Beautiful and clear, Karen pulled back from the screams that make her a rock star and instead showcased a softer side that let her voice shine.

The concert was marvelous. I went home soaked with sweat and exhausted. I kept thinking I’d just witnessed a rock show from another decade and that my dad would be proud. The whole drive home, I replayed Karen O’s stage antics in my head and came to the divine realization that she’d blown my mind.

According to good old Wikipedia, Karen O won Spin Magazine’s Sex Goddess Award in 2004 and 2005. Blender named her one of rock’s hottest women in 2006. In 2007, she placed third on’s Women Who Rock Right Now. In 2010, she won a Shockwaves NME Award for the Hottest Woman.

In 2013, Tiffany Brown developed a girl crush on Karen O. I suggest you do, too.


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