During my relatively short, gig going career, I have seen some great bands and have witnessed some special shows but none of these have deviated greatly from the usual format you would expect at a gig. Yo La Tengo’s performance on Friday night was refreshingly different. Their career has spanned 27 years with 12 albums having been released. Their general distaste for the homogenous has seen almost every single one of these very different from the next leading to a very diverse catalogue to choose from.
The gig began with the spinning of the wheel, this was the very unique and original way of deciding what delectation would serve as the warm-up. I was praying for it to land on Sitcom Theatre for pure unadulterated entertainment but instead it landed on Dump; James McNew’s solo project. I was originally skeptical, but as soon as McNew’s fuzz filled guitars kicked in heads were bobbing appreciatively throughout the venue. Having not heard any of Dump’s recordings before I was pleasantly surprised and I would liken them to a less electronic Flaming Lips as echoes of Wayne Coyne’s vocals were prevalent. Face melting guitar solos were also endemic, most notably on ‘Daily Affirmation’ which lead to much of the audience being completely enthralled and perplexed by McNew’s finger speeds. The band exited to an audience sufficiently warmed up. Objective met.
After a brief interlude, the band reemerged from backstage this time as Yo La Tengo. The set began with ‘Last Days of Disco’, a beautiful track in which Ira Kaplan whispered sweet nothings into the ears of every spectator. ‘Everyday’ also contained vocals that were barely audible due to its soothing nature but again came across as calming. Yet more aural relaxation came in the form of ‘Our Way to Fall’, this was juxtaposed with the punk rock shouting of ‘Watch Out For Me Ronnie’ foregrounding the bands incredible variety of genres. Poppy tracks like ‘Mr Tough’ and ‘Autumn Sweater’ had everyone singing along and sounded great as did the more experimental, psychedelic tracks. Mental keyboard solos, Jimi Hendrix style shredding and Ian Curtis-esque dancing was seen at different points throughout the evening by Kaplan who’s voice was at times indistinguishable from The National’s Matt Berninger’s vocals showing him to be a large inspiration to bands of today. The set finished on a high to an ubiquitously ecstatic audience and to everyone’s amazement was followed by not one encore, but two!
The first encore consisted of ‘Yellow Sarong’, ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ and a Sandy Denny cover all of which were lead by drummer and vocalist Georgia Hubley. This was my highlight as her delicate voice has a very vulnerable feel making it seem immensely precious and at times truly stunning. The second encore consisted of ‘Did I Tell You’ on which Kaplan cooed “Brain’s impatient, my heart’s still willing to wait”. This was a great ending to a truly original and awes inspiring gig. I hope other bands take a leaf out of Yo La Tengo’s book and decide to spice things up a little. Who says change is bad?