By Melissa Bordeau
tUnE-yArDs opened last Wednesday's show at the Vic Theatre with "Rocking Chair," a track off the album Nikki Nack, released this Spring. Lead member, singer and drummer Merrill Garbus—along with dancing backup singers Jo Lampert and Abigail Nessen-Bengson—sang a cappella with just a few hand claps to accompany their gorgeous voices, making for a great way to start off the night.
During the next song, “Sink- O"— really cool track filled with jazz, hip-hop, and tribal elements—bassist Nate Brenner and newly-added percussionist Dani Markham joined on stage. Adding to the setup were two large eyeballs hanging on the wall above, a red sheet with more eyeballs running across the stage, and a colorful collection of clothes worn by the band. Garbus rocked a half-red, half-gold dress with spiked sleeves, Brenner a colorful striped tee, Markham a "Tarzan"-esque dress, and Lampert and Nessen-Bengson in contrasting black and white.
It was very pleasing and engaging for the eyes. The setting, music, and group of energetic, talented musicians resembled the scene in the movie "Hook," where the boys have an imaginary food fight throwing colorful splatters of food at each other. tUnE-yArDs' set and music felt that way. Chaotic, colorful beauty.
tUnE-yArDs live performance is very raw, transparent and welcoming. Garbus gives each one of her fans a chance to look into her artistic process, to step inside and watch something very intimate. She is organically creating her sounds right in front of the crowd, and that allows each performance to be unique. As she stated in a recent interview with Spin, “I don’t think the crowd knows this, but at any moment anything can go wrong.”
Unlike tUnE-yArDs 2012 Lollapalooza performance—where Garbus and Brenner were accompanied by two saxophonists and most of the show saw Garbus looping her songs—this tour for Nikki Nack has found Garbus trying something different. With this album she wanted to be more dance, more pop, but still remain loyal to the tUnE-yArDs sound. There is not as much looping, there are no saxophone players on stage—instead adding the incredible back up singers and additional percussionist.
But Garbus still used her looping expertise at the show to delight the audience while she played her older hits "Gangsta," "Bizness" and "Powa." These three songs got the most energy out of the crowd, with all of the Vic vibrating along with each and every word.