Yo La Tengo
April 03, 2018 @ Paradise Rock Club
Photos and Review by: Sarah Sherard
Yo La Tengo performed not one, but two sets at Paradise Rock Club without any support. Not many bands I know go on stage without an opener but when you’re Yo La Tengo and you’ve been around since 1984, I suppose you have the leverage to do whatever you want and make it work. I walked into a crowd much older than me and even though it was a rock club, the mood felt very café-like. People shuffled around speaking in low voices and I even witnessed a girl reading a book in the middle of the venue. How she could read in such ambient lighting is a question that will remain unanswered. Records and digital CDs with paint on them hung on strings from the ceiling as endearing set designs to make the environment feel even more like someone’s basement. The number of instruments on stage could easily fool someone into thinking this band consists of six or more people: five guitars, a bass, a keyboard, a drum set, a cello, a complicated looking synth pedal, and even a few tambourines.
Once they came on stage there was no messing around. Music immediately vibrated the entire place and the crowd’s attention gravitated towards the stage. Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew are the most average looking people I’ve ever seen (no offense), and I would never peg them as being longstanding band members with multiple albums (again, no offense). But it doesn’t really matter how they look, really, because the focus was on the music they unloaded on the audience. Looking around, no one really moved. I saw couples holding each other, people standing in awe, and a gentle undulation of the crowd as people subconsciously swayed to either Ira or Georgia’s soothing voices. People breathed in the electric hum of the guitar and out the gentle taps of the drum cymbals. Even during the rougher songs, everyone seemed at ease.
They played in colors of blue, green, yellow, and red. Yo La Tengo’s music ranges from nostalgic melancholic indie to chaotic noise rock and they integrated both genres into the two sets they played. The second set reached a louder climax than the first. There were songs from their most recent album, There’s a Riot Going On, as well as some of their more well-known songs like ‘I’ll Be Around’ and ‘You Can Have It All.’ I, as well as the rest of the crowd, appreciated the balance between the songs performed that are sung by Ira, the songs sung by Georgia, and the songs sung by no one at all. They know how to showcase the breadth of their work and I was surprised how they can make all of their songs come to life from the studio recordings with just three band members on stage (and one other player off stage). They sounded like their studio album except with more fervor. It was fascinating to watch them naturally switch instruments and meld each song into one another. It’s a practice they’ve probably spent years perfecting, and it was a pleasure to to observe such a timeless band in action.