Reviews > Shows
Yellowbirds at the Mercury Lounge
New York, NY
Guitarist and singer Sam Cohen, who formerly fronted psychedelic rockers Apollo Sunshine, brought his new project Yellowbirds to New York’s Mercury Lounge for a fairly rare headlining performance. Yellowbirds released a debut album, The Color, on Marco Benevento’s Royal Potato Family label in February 2011, but touring in support of the album has been mostly limited to opening sets. As the band wrapped up their show at Mercury Lounge, Cohen declared that they had played every song they knew, taking advantage of their longer set time to play through The Color and mix in a couple new tunes.
Yellowbirds brand of psychedelia is closer to The Zombies or Love than the Grateful Dead, and in the studio, they emphasized melody over experimental, raw psychedelic rock. With layers and layers of vocal harmonies, floating guitars, colorful keyboards and lush autoharp, The Color is an intricately produced studio album. As a live four-piece band, Yellowbirds replace the dense sonic textures of the album with a heavier garage rock edge. There are moments of guitar wizardry on The Color, such as the gorgeously flowing solo on “Rings In The Trees,” but live, Cohen’s more aggressive playing is a larger part of the band’s sound.
Between shredding solos and the mellow jingle jangle riffs, his guitar playing blurred the line between adventurous and melodic. Using an array of psychedelic tones like an artist painting with vividly different colors, his playing was wildly creative. Though Cohen took the bulk of the solos, guitarist Max Koepke stood out as well, coloring the songs with fills while Cohen sang. Sometimes the pair would stretch out and trade off solos, including during a new song with a winding twin guitar jam that evoked The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” “Beneath the Reach of Light” featured more swirling guitar interplay, as Cohen coaxed magnificent bursts of psychedelic noise out of his instrument.
Set closer “Our Good Days Are Gone” found Cohen stomping around the stage, as his stinging guitar tone and fuzzed out shredding would have made Jimi Hendrix proud. After closing the show with an explosive rocker, Yellowbirds returned to play “The Reason” which found Cohen abandoning his guitar for autoharp on the quick, bouncy encore. Led by a psychedelic pop genius with an uncanny ear for melody, Yellowbirds’ psychedelic rock is catchy and breezy but also dense and fiery, and is the perfect outlet for Cohen’s songs.
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