Yo La Tengo
Mike Mantin 12/09/2007
Yo La Tengo are the dictionary definition of a cult band, as the small but captivated audience of tonight's show proves. Judging by the amount of requests hurled at them, seemingly everyone in this intimate venue is a devotee, and though some of their veteran indie-rock peers are now playing arenas, they seem completely at home with their cult status. After all, it leaves them free to open their albums with 10-minute jams like 'Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind', played tonight in its full, ultra-distorted glory.
Tonight they recreate the spirit of their eclectic last album, 2006's 'I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass' (a title which Ira Kaplan still loves saying, as revealed in the between-song banter) by offering two versions of Yo La Tengo. The first is the piano-led indie-pop incarnation, in which they play the hipster-hits beautifully while all three band members take turns singing leads and harmonies. 'Autumn Sweater' is hazy and understated, while 'Mr Tough' turns the room into a bouncy jazz club, the falsetto of which proving their vocal styles aren't just limited to murmurs.
The other, more striking side of Yo La Tengo arrives whenever Ira straps on a guitar. Clearly a man who gets immersed in music, he manipulates his brilliant solos while throwing himself around the stage as straight-faced Georgia and James provide the tight rhythm section. On 'Pass The Hatchet' he sounds like he's playing five guitars at sonce, while his manic thrashing completely transforms the otherwise light and folky 'Stockholm Syndrome' (a request granted by Ira after commenting on the fan's Strawbs t-shirt).
Yo La Tengo will always have a devoted audience, and indeed continue gaining new obessive fans, as long as they keep playing excellent songs passionately. Judging by tonight's wonderful show, and the fact that they've just released one of the best albums of a two-decade career, there doesn't seem to be any danger of that.
More photos from the gig at Mike's Flickr page