"I'd forgotten how good they were!" exclaimed one of the many odd-looking denizens of The Forum on Saturday night.
New Jersey threesome Yo La Tengo are in the enviable position of being not too hot and not too cold. For over twenty years they have gathered together a solid core of adoring fans, but by never breaking into the commerical mainstream they have left themselves with the freedom to continue the varied and experimental sound that got them an audience in the first place. Name another band that has the confidence to start an album with a ten-minute tribute to feedback, as Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind does on their new record I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.
Never was this spirit of latitude more evident than in the setlist for Saturday night's raucous and barnstorming gig, which saw husband-and-wife team Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley swapping both instruments and styles to move from the bluesy terrain explored in new tracks such as Sometimes I Don't Get You, to the quiet, spare ballads of old that had the audience all but reaching for their lighters, to the aforementioned ten-minute romps, in which bassist Stephen Wichnewski seemed to be probing the limits ofjust how much distortion he could drag from his bass. Indulgent? Absolutely, but the fans loved every second of it, especially when the cacophony of sound finally coalesced into the foot-stomping I Should Have Known Better.
The Tengos are famous for their eclectic covers and suprised many in their second of three encores when they played a cover of Rocks by the Rolling Stones. Seriously though, can we can it with the encores already? The house lights aren't coming up; we know they're coming back, what is the function of having the band say goodnight four times, exactly?
Words and photos by Daniel Nicholls.