Last night, after 13 years in existence, Philadelphia's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah made its Miami debut at the outdoor stage of Gramps. It felt as though many who would have been into this indie-rock group back during their 2005 heyday had lost patience. The crowd was modest, which left plenty of space for the handful of fans up front to move to the propulsive groove of Alec Ounsworth’s whimsical, catchy rock.
The show ran like clockwork. Following a sweet, twee performance by the breathy-voiced Laura Gibson and her acoustic guitar, the current quartet of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah took their place under the outdoor disco ball and tiki hut at 10:14 p.m. The set featured a decent mix of the band’s oeuvre with an emphasis on the career-establishing self-titled debut.
The first three songs flowed into each other with hardly a pause and after “Better Off,” Ounsworth made his only address to the crowd beyond a few thank you's. “It’s very nice to be here, finally, in Miami,” he said. Mostly it was an introspective kind of performance with the musicians closing their eyes tight during more enthralling moments.
There were only maybe about four enthusiastic dancers spread around up front, including some dude with a fancy camera who may have streamed the show. Woe unto those exposed to this footage. The guy could hardly hold back from shaking his hips and moving his feet, particularly during “Over and Over Again.” Whatever video came of it was bound to make someone throw up.
Ounsworth’s tendency to write melodies that work as much in tension as they do in harmony offered many possibilities to get lost in the music. They charged into those moments. Ounsworth’s Fender telecaster drove “In This Home On Ice” while the patient, almost phantom whistling of keyboard chords accompanied it. It’s too bad that the Nord was sometimes a bit low, but, then again, it also made it authentic to the band’s recorded sound, where sometimes instruments are mixed down to almost phantom presence.
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There is a charming shy quality to Ounsworth. It’s not just in how he loses himself in the music, but in the way he pulls these songs off, like his stealthy guitar solo for “Yankee Go Home.” He did put down the guitar for a moment of rock star projection when he took the mic in hand and stood in front of the monitors for the climax of an energetic version of “Some Loud Thunder.” The only moment when the momentum felt kind of lost was during the spare, lugubrious “Adam’s Plane," but even that song swelled on a terrific drum solo, ending the set on a redemptive note.
They followed up with a brief encore of two of the band's more driving tracks, the younger "Ketamine and Ecstasy" and the much more popular, ramshackle "Heavy Metal" from their debut album. The band now continues its tour tonight with a performance at the Social in Orlando.
- "As Always"
- "In This Home on Ice"
- "Better Off"
- "Yankee Go Home"
- "Is This Love?"
- "Some Loud Thunder"
- "A Chance to Cure"
- "Coming Down"
- "The Pilot"
- "Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)"
- "Down (Is Where I Want to Be)"
- "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth"
- "Misspent Youth"
- "Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood"
- "Adam's Plane"
- "Ketamine and Ecstasy"
- "Heavy Metal"