Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

The Story Of Yo La Tango

Warning – there will be NO ass-beating plays on words in this review. None.

Declaration one – I love Yo La Tengo. Declaration two – I’ve never really enjoyed a live show of theirs. I’ve seen them twice, and both times they were meandering, self-indulgently jammy and generally not very entertaining. There were moments of greatness both times but on the whole – and it’s a large whole, they play LONG – more disappointing than transcendent. But considering those tours were in support of their two snooziest albums (And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out and Summer Sun), a rock spectacle probably couldn’t be expected. But with their latest record I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass being a terrifically eclectic slab of all that makes Yo La Tengo great, I was actually excited about their show at the Phoenix Monday night. Third time lucky and all that.

I knew nothing about openers why? (proper case and punctuation essential) before actually seeing them take the stage and while for whatever reason I expected the worst – possibly because some reviews of earlier shows from thoroughly non-credible sources weren’t very kind – I was quite pleasantly surprised. The trio created folk-pop that sounded like it was being viewed through a broken kaleidoscope. Their songs were, at the core, quite accessible and pretty but they sounded like they were built with one leg shorter than the other, such that they staggered and lurched most entertainingly, but also completely intentionally. They also drew a pretty sizable number of fans who were probably there just to see them, judging from their enthusiasm. Pretty impressive all around.

I’ve decided that the best way to gauge a Yo La Tengo performance is by how they pull off “Blue Line Swinger”. First time I saw them, they weren’t bad but I recall they dragged out that song for what seemed like hours, most of that spent on the drums/organ intro. It went from hypnotic to tedious to almost excruciating. Second time… well, I don’t really remember if they played that one (thus harpooning my theory) but they did drag out “Nuclear War” for, again, what seemed like hours. I appreciate the fun in saying “it’s a motherf*cker” endlessly, but not so much for the audience. But Monday night? “Blue Line Swinger” was perfection – for that song, and really all the jammy/noisy numbers, everything was stretched out to just the right length, never getting overly self-indulgent or out of control, and balanced perfectly with the compact and upbeat poppy numbers and gently beautiful acoustic/keyboard ballads.

Though the set list didn’t draw exclusively from Beat Your Ass, it did reflect the eclecticism of the latest record (which in turns is an excellent microcosm of the band’s career) as well as its overall greatness. It was quite amazing to watch them shift so seamlessly between roles, instruments and styles and all so effortlessly and naturally – a more versitile and talented band you’re not likely to find anywhere. But best of all, I think, was the fact that the band seemed to be in a jovial mood and quite happy to be there – not something I’d have said about the previous shows. Ira, in particular, was chatty and engaging with the audience and didn’t at all seem like he wanted to beat… ahem.

But I am very pleased to be able to say that after many years of trying, I’ve finally seen a great Yo La Tengo show. Which means I’m one step closer to being able to die. Which probably isn’t something I should be aspiring to. But there you go. Photos from the show aren’t great – the lighting was a bear – but there is a new MP3 available courtesy of Ampcamp. It’s a James-sung tune and one of the highlights of the new album, if not the band’s entire discography. It’s that good. And no, they didn’t play it on Monday. Alas.

Photos: Yo La Tengo, why? @ The Phoenix – October 2, 2006
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Black Flowers”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Beanbag Chair”
MySpace: Yo La Tengo

Doug Martsch of Built To Spill self-deprecates to Northwest Indiana Times. I’ve been told that there’s talk of a Canadian BTS tour in 2007…?

Bradley’s Alamanac has Eric Bachmann’s recent show in Cambridge, MA available to download.

The Bluetones have canceled their Friday night show at Lee’s Palace with no formal explanation yet. The Tripwire has the cryptic, official statement from the band.

Wow. $177.50 USD. That’s amazing, thank you. Taking a cue (again) from rbally, here’s the receipt of the donation to the Pat Spurgeon Kidney Benefit courtesy of Rogue Wave. Thanks to everyone who bid, got the word out and to Chris in Calgary for the winning bid.

Server was down this morning. Sorries.

np – Wrens / The Meadowlands

By : Frank Yang at 9:32 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Sandra says:

    Blue Line Swinger??? Awwwwww, I’m so jealous. Saw the Ottawa and Montreal shows, and both were fantastic. Such different venues though. Le National was just stunning, while the Babylon was a crappy little hole (and I was more than a bit annoyed at the rude chattering of the Ottawa crowd). Was thrilled with the setlists (both completely different save for the tunes from IANAOYAIWBYA) until I started seeing some of the others, such as that fantastic bootleg from Conneticut. But still, Blue Line Swinger???? I’m going to go have a little cry now.

  2. distopian_dreamer says:

    My first time seeing Yo La Tengo, and I have to admit I was blown away! Definitely one of the best shows that I’ve ever seen. I knew by after the 2nd song, The Story of YLT, that the show was going to be something special! Deeper Into Movies and Pass The Hatchet were amazing as well as the Georgia led, reworked acoustic versions of Tom Courtenay and Center Of Gravity. Does anyone recognize the covers that they did though? The dedication to Mike Love and the two that they did for the second encore?

    And yes, I too have heard of the BTS Canadian summer tour. I’ll believe it when they actually play Winnipeg…

  3. l-tree says:

    Frank, your description of why? is spot-on, and captures exactly what I like about them.

  4. j clicky clicky says:

    Yeah, no "Blue Line Swinger" in Boston, either… :(

    Great show tho.

  5. Sandra says:

    Actually I should comment, that I’m still thrilled with the sets we got. I mean it’d be impossible to hear everything on my list. The Ottawa gig in particular, they pretty much picked off all the songs I’d intended to shout out during the encore. We’re an American Band was especially awesome.

    I do want to add a little anecdote about the Ottawa show, because I had the same experience in feeling that the whole tone of this tour is just joyous (I was at the Summer Sun Toronto gig too and left before the encore).

    Anyway, at the end of the first encore, the band were clearly about to leave the stage, and someone started pleading for Nowhere Near. The band had a quick pow-wow and agreed to do it. Clearly they hadn’t played it in a while, as Georgia had to take a minute first to sit at the keyboard and try to remember the chords. She was getting frustrated and finally got up and said she couldn’t, and the crowd moaned, so she went back and had another go, and finally got it. The song was beautiful, and I was just so moved they would do that. Wonderful.

  6. Ronan says:

    Agreed, totally amazing show. Would have loved to hear "Our Way to Fall", but still give the show a rousing 10/10.

    One of the cover tunes done, besides the Mike Love dedication, was Neil Young’s "Prisoners Of Rock ‘n’ Roll" from his ‘Life’ album. The other was a Dylan song that I didnt recognize.

  7. Frank says:

    Ah, "Prisoners Of Rock’N’Roll"! Thanks, I knew it sounded familiar but couldn’t place it… I don’t have "Life". And the Dylan song I recognized but couldn’t name it either – I’d have to go wading through all my Dylan albums to figure out which.

  8. Neil says:

    This was my first YLT show and it was a stunner and totally up to expectations. Best trio show I’ve seen in an incredibly long time.

    One thing that stands out for me is how seamlessly they moved from song to song, without much fiddling of knobs or tuning of guitars. With the huge variety of tunings that Ira Kaplan uses (and the number of times he went apeshit) I think their roadie should win some kind of award for keeping everything ready to play and in tune.

  9. Seth says:

    The Dylan song they did was "I Wanna Be Your Lover" off of Biograph and I’m not sure what else.

  10. Jon says:

    Did that built to spill article actually say he’s collaborating with Calvin Johnson again? Am I making that up?
    A new Halo Benders album would be a dream come true.

  11. Glenn says:

    If I get the chance, maybe I’ll check out YLT for this album. My interest waned years ago. Their live shows, IMO, peaked around ’97 or ’98.

  12. Gary says:

    Congratulations on the auction. You did a very nice thing there.

  13. jennings says:

    That’s a great total . . . congrats on your efforts.

    Also, there’s a Yo La Tengo show over at <a href="…">rbally</a>.

  14. jeremiah vohn says:

    hey u can check the lyrics at :-)