Yaeji Is in Firm Command at Brooklyn Steel on Friday
May 22, 2023
Yaeji – Brooklyn Steel – May 19, 2023
Yaeji’s debut full-length album, With a Hammer, makes art out of anger — or at least makes anger artful — and delivers the kind of enthralling sonic voyage that the fast-rising DJ, singer and electronica artist has been signaling she’s had in her since first hitting the scene. It’s not an angry listen, per se, but it’s a feisty, playful, aggressive and angsty one — born of (and confirmed by the artist to be) the sounds that come out when people want to channel their more unwieldy rage into useful, more manageable expression without filing down its edge. It’s also the kind of release that all Yaeji’s milestones thus far — the promising EPs, the collaborations with the likes of Robyn and Charli XCX, the 2020 What We Drew mixtape, the Coachella set — only began to express as far as range, dynamism and excitement. She’s really cool. Her music and her show strike deep, in offbeat and unusual ways.
At Brooklyn Steel on Friday — the first of what amounted to two hometown headlining shows for the local resident — Yaeji was in firm command of her art, moving through an hour-long, thrillingly composed performance where vocals, dancing, video projections, lights and a warm, inviting, you-all-belong-here-with-me kind of vibe were fully aligned. Starting with “Submerge FM” (in front of a psychedelic pink-sun image), heading into the sparkling “For Granted,” and on from there, she performed solo, except for two backup dancers, and chatted often, explaining her art, using words like “transmute” that felt on point for what she was trying to do, and employing props like a giant, Thor-like hammer that in different hands might have seemed cartoony but here felt in balance. The crowd adored her, and not just when the better-known Yaeji bangers like “Raingurl” were played (although that one, yeah, brought the house into full club mode).
It was about 14 compositions in all — ordered as a panorama, some segued — and then a tasteful encore of slightly older material: “One More” and “Drink I’m Sipping On.” Yaeji’s done some lovely covers in the past, but tellingly, Friday’s set featured all original music. There’s a good amount of that from her now and it’s everything her audience wanted to hear — and feel. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Photos courtesy of Ellen Qbertplaya | @Qbertplaya