Live Review: Karen O at The Manderley Bar

Walking into the Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel in New York City last night, the intimate room was balmy with a thick haze of smoke. As the setting for the immersive play Sleep No More, the venue already exuded a mysterious air. The wonder continued to build for over an hour as the audience stood staring at the glow of a neon “Crush Palace” sign hanging onstage and listening to a creepy continuous track of what sounded like breaking waves and ghost machinery.


And just when the anticipation was about to be unbearable, musicians Holly Miranda and Moses Sumney appeared from the mist and began plucking gently on their guitars. Thus started Karen O’s live show for her new solo album, Crush Songs, a collection of lo-fi songs she’s been developing for the past several years.

karen o

As the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer stepped on stage and began singing, most of her set was like a hypnotizing lullaby filled with the fuzzy coos and whispery vocals of songs like “NYC Baby,” “OOO,” “Indian Summer” and “Rapt.” Nick Zinner, her self-proclaimed “musical soulmate” from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed on a few numbers throughout the night as well.

Towards the end of her set, Karen O occasionally shifted from an understated delicate delivery to reveal isolated moments of her cheeky characteristic punk side in the song, “Body.” Someone in the audience yelled, “You’re adorable!” which made her smile and giggle.

Overall, the haunting, dreamy performance truly captivated a soundtrack that ranged from feelings of loneliness to hope as echoed in the double entendre of the word “crush” in her album title. The live songs felt warmer and more intimate than on the minimalistically recorded tracks on the album. You still have a chance to catch her on the following live dates:

Sept 12 – Le Poisson Rouge (New York)

Sept 17 – The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles)

Sept 18 – The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles)

Sept 19 – The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles)

Sept 22 – Great American Music Hall (San Francisco)

Oct 4 – Bush Hall (London)

Oct 5 – Bush Hall (London)

Oct 7 – Heimathafen (Berlin)

About the author: Jin Moon has been affectionately writing about music and the arts since 2002 on her blog, She also currently runs her own agency, On the Moon Arts. Tweet salutations to @jinners.

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