Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Concert Review: Yo La Tengo

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Photos by FORESTER MICHAEL

Stepping into the Granada was like stepping into the Twilight Zone: What I saw was effectively a show I saw roughly three years ago in the spring of 2007. But this isn't a jab to imply that Yo La Tengo played the same set - it was literally the same damn show! That is, Times New Viking opened and Yo La Tengo played a set of noisy, guitar-freakout heavy indie-rock laced with some of their absolute finest songs.

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And now, for the headliners. Early in Yo La Tengo's set, when someone up front asked how long Yo La Tengo had been playing together, giving them the options of a) 13 Years, b) 14 Years or c) 15 Years, frontman Ira Kaplan, in the nicest possible way, told the young man that the correct answer was 26 years. That was easily a couple years higher than the average age of the audience. No matter how many years pass, Yo La Tengo remains one of the most consistently excellent bands in the American indie music scene, and they haven't put out an album that has been anything less than very, very good. Their recent release, Popular Songs, proves that it is possible for old school college rock bands to age like wine, and for veteran college rock bands show new college-aged rock bands who's boss.

If only the show was as consistent as their record releases.Watching Ira Kaplan freak out with his guitar and make a ton of noise is fun for a while. But during the 15-minute instrumental "All the Glitter is Gone" that closed the set, I thought of all the songs they could be playing instead. But then I realized, hey, they're Yo La Tengo. They've been together 26 years and they have to keep things interesting, so why not let them enjoy themselves. But the only person enjoying the melting instrumental breakdown was Kaplan, because James McNew played the same two notes on his bass the entire time and Georgia Hubley's drum-beat never really changed. Effectively, it felt like a rehearsed jam session.

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However, for a large chunk of the night Yo La Tengo was on point. New jams like the funky "Periodically Double or Triple," "Here to Fall," and McNew's "I'm on My Way" fit in perfectly amongst older favorites like "Little Eyes" and "We're an American Band." The highlight of the night was when the band went into full Camp Yo La Tengo mode, which featured Hubley stepping out from behind the drums to sing a lovely rendition of the traditionally Kaplan-sung "Tom Courtenay" and the gorgeous and heartbreaking "Don't Say a Word," which was my  favorite song of the night. Everything was absolutely still and for once, no one in the audience assumed that the band playing a quiet song meant that it was an excuse to talk (which is all too common with Lawrence shows).

After "Don't Say a Word," Hubley scurried back behind her drum kit and after a noisy little interlude the band launched into "Sugarcube," a fine tune in a back catalog of noisy pop gems. It's the song that got me into Yo La Tengo in the first place, and seeing it live illustrated the timelessness of the song. 

To add to the deja vu quality of the show, Times New Viking joined Yo La Tengo for a cover of the Clean's "Oddity" during the encore, which was a highlight from the Yo La Tengo/Times New Viking show of 2007. However, this time around the encore also featured McNew's fantastic "Stockholm Syndrome" in addition to a cover of Daniel Johnston's "Speeding Motorcycle" and a terribly sad and lovely acoustic rendition of "Big Day Coming." Any beef I had with Kaplan's guitar wanking was settled, and I just wanted to snuggle up with Yo La Tengo on my headphones forever after that. 

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SET LIST:

Author's Note: Please fill in any blanks I may have!

We're An American Band

All Your Secrets

Periodically Double or Triple

Avalon or Someone Very Similar

Little Eyes

Here to Fall

If It's True

Mr. Tough

I'm on My Way

Don't Say a Word

Tom Courtenay

Sugarcube

?

Nothing to Hide

*Really noisy, long song

All the Glitter is Gone

Encore
Clean cover
Stockholm Syndrome
?
Speeding Motorcycle (Daniel Johnston cover)
Big Day Coming

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