live review

Yo La Tengo, San Francisco Bath House, Wellington

Yo La Tengo, San Francisco Bath House, Wellington

Yo La Tengo at The San Francisco Bath House, Wellington
February 09 2010

Reviewed by: Brannavan Gnanalingam

Yo La Tengo are one of the most consistent bands of the last few decades. They have few dud releases, and their music is restless in its experimentation and eclecticism. The trio formed in 1984, and their career has shifted in all sorts of directions from the folk of Fakebook to the smog of Painful, to the instrumental score of The Sounds of the Sounds of Science, and they’ve incorporated large dollops of shoegazer, indie pop, jazz, and raw noise throughout. Their show in Wellington matched their career in that it incorporated a vast array of sounds, and their set was perfectly constructed in terms of the atmosphere. And also, like their career, it was fantastic. It’s impressive that a three-piece can sound so different – sudden shards of noise and perfectly controlled feedback jostle with gentle melodies and affecting moments of quietness. And for two hours, and two encores, their immaculate set was an exercise in perfectionism.

Credit for the show must also go to the mixer. Yo La Tengo would be a band whose show would suffer if the mixing wasn’t right – but from my vantage point in amongst a packed crowd, the mixing complemented the sudden shifts in sound that defined their set. The show started off quite unassuming, despite being drenched in feedback, but as the music contorted in all sorts of directions, and the band themselves warmed up in their banter and stage antics (part of which included teasing Wellington after a crowd member dutifully asked the inevitable but cheesy question ‘do you like Wellington? There was also considerable instrument changing, as the band demonstrated their versatility), the audience eventually stopped talking over the music and let it all soak over them.

Their set was full of highlights from all over their career: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out’s ‘Cherry Chapstick’, ‘Periodically Double or Triple’ from their latest Popular Songs, their sinister ‘Bad Politics’, or the beautiful ‘I Feel Like Going Home’ from I am Not Afraid Of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. Given how fond Yo La Tengo are of New Zealand indie music from the ‘80s (they’ve also contributed to the recent Chris Knox tribute album), it was fitting that the night was opened by Clean/Bats Robert Scott. It was also fitting that Robert Scott jumped up at the end and jammed with the band on a Clean cover. They ended with I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One’s ‘Autumn Sweater’, after it was requested by a crowd-member, and a great song from a great gig – one of the finest in recent years in Wellington - stunned a crowd who had already been stunned more than enough.



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