Vincent O’Boyle is easily won over by Yo La Tengo’s masterful show in Tripod
In their hilarious video for ‘Sugarcube’, the Yo La Tengo trio are sent to rock school by their record label. If such a school existed – or, at least, a credible, non-cringeworthy alternative to the MTV type – I can’t think of any three better mentors than Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew.
YLT have learned a lot in their 25 years of existence. Their consistency, innovation and good humour have made them revered by music fans across the globe. Last week’s show in Tripod is a reminder of how special they really are: for starters, the ticket read: “No support – minimum 2 hour show”. This hints at an epic performance and when the band stroll onstage and burst into ‘Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind’, they’re not hinting. This colossal track is over ten minutes of repetitive bass, propulsive drumming, hazy vocals and blissfully chaotic guitar. It is very much a statement of intent.
Glancing around at the entranced audience it is clear that YLT can do no wrong, cruising through their set with incredible passion, showmanship and versatility. New songs from their latest album Popular Songs are well received, particularly funky ‘Periodically Double or Triple’ and climactic ‘Here To Fall’. It becomes very clear from the excitement of the crowd during certain songs what the band’s favoured album is, namely their 1997 masterpiece I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One.
A sweet rendition of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ with McNew on vocals has everybody grinning like the Cheshire Cat; the song has a newfound energy when played live thanks to Ira’s manic soloing. ‘Deeper Into Movies’ from the same album gets a similar reception, gradually building up from the end of new song ‘More Stars Than There Are in Heaven’, and saving their set from the brink of self-indulgency. The latter song definitely sounds better on record.
What follows is definitely one of the highlights of the evening. McNew joins Hubley on percussion and the two set about creating the infectiously catchy beat that introduces ‘Autumn Sweater’. It is the moment many people have been waiting for, but the band aren’t finished yet and play on tirelessly reminding everyone of the sheer depth of their back catalogue. Their spontaneity and enthusiasm is something to behold. Someone requests ‘Little Honda’ and they launch straight into it, even enlisting the help of their guitar technician when Kaplan decides he wants to play drums.
The biggest cheer of the night is reserved for a beautiful stripped down version of ‘You Can Have It All’. The audience is powerless to resist singing and clapping along. A couple of acoustic covers played afterwards are the perfect way to conclude the show, bringing everyone back to reality after the elation of a very special performance.