Tune-Yards closed out a six-week tour on the smaller stage at Pumpehuset. The space is packed and the lights are low, and there’s faint aura on the stage from the glow of an uncountable number of pedals.
The energy in the room is good. In part, this is because Merrill Garbus is herself a high-energy performer. She bops and struts, leads her band in sun salutes, raises her arms as if in a rallying cry, and through the low lighting you can occasionally see how wide her eyes are opened and the exaggerated stretch of her facial features. But the energy also refracts back from the audience; the people here not only know Tune-Yards but clearly love Tune-Yards. They are dancing, they are shouting back lines from “Bizness” and “Gangsta.” Much of the set comes from this year’s I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, and they know the songs well.
If …Private Life was a bit down-tempo as a recording, the live set is a swamp of loops and yelps, driven by drums that cut through the electronics with their sheer tangibleness. Garbus makes playing the ukulele look cool, which is an impressive feat in itself, but much of that may have to do with her skill in making a ukulele sound like anything other than a ukulele. She plays her pedals with her feet like a separate instrument, her looped voice tumbling over and colliding with itself, and it doesn’t take long before it becomes difficult to distinguish what is sampled and what is looped.
Garbus’ voice has real power behind it, and she knows how to wield it. She offers a soothing sweetness when her vocals are meant to serve as a backing track and punctuates lines with massive bellows. She does not scream, she does not have to. Whatever she’s projecting — a state of zen or a call to arms — people are dancing, are listening, are ready to follow.