tUnE-yArDs 2/15 Shepherd’s Bush Empire London Review/Photos

By Michael Zonenashvili

There’s many acts that use the dynamic of looping in some very impressive ways. However, sometimes watching them line up their sounds before a song is a bore, and if they come pre-recorded the crowd is unimpressed and will complain. Luckily, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs makes the live compositions of her songs captivating and entertaining as each stomp on a looping pedal introduces a new layer to a song that’ll get the audience going.

It’s almost like playing a guessing game at a tUnE-yArDs show, provided with just the beginning beats to a song, or some a capella syllables to reference as you turn to your neighbor and ask “what song is this?” Then, there’s some telling yelp, ukulele riff, or explosion of saxophone and you realize what it is. Garbus will use and part of her equipment to loop her sounds, even tapping the mic stand with a drumstick, or a guttural throat sound.

Since the release of Whokill I’ve seen her perform four times, and this one was no different sans one song. As it happened, that one song was a new one, that was around 8 minutes long. It had the most straight forward 4/4 beat of any tUnE-yArDs song and had a pretty simple structure going compared to other ones such as the dissonant Riotriot or the ending of Gangsta, but the song worked. It is exciting to know that new material might be in the works, and it seemed this material was written along with the saxophone players and Nate the bassist.

The best part of a tUnE-yArDs concert, though, remains the beginning. Whenever she opens with Party-Can(Do You Want to Live) She calls out to the audience multiple times, asking “Do You Want To Live?!” and the tUnE-yArDs concert veterans scream “Yeah!” on the first chance because they’ve seen her before and they’re cheating, but it allows the rest of the crowd to yell the subsequent shouts of “Yeah!” and judging by their faces, they all feel pretty alive.


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