Friday, December 5, 2014

Yo La Tengo @ Town Hall NYC December 5th

James McNew w/married couple Georgia Hubley & Ira Kaplan
Devoted Yo La Tengo (YLT) fans streamed into the Town Hall in Manhattan without the storied venue Maxwell's on the band's home turf of Hoboken, New Jersey across the Hudson River. This relocated annual holiday show also celebrated the group's thirtieth anniversary and the reissue of 1993's Painful LP as Extra Painful, loaded with bonus tracks.  I was one of the few newer devotees  in the crowd, after being smitten with their thirteenth album Fade which I picked for my list of  Top Ten Releases of 2013.  As they took the stage with waves, the strains of my very favorite song "Ohm" broke the game plan. I figured I'd be waiting for this song to be rolled out much later, maybe even during an encore. This seemed to make sense, since it's the most popular tune with the cute videos from their last album -- full of simple truths such as in the chorus: "But nothing ever stays the same, nothing's explained." The lilting melody chugs along a slightly messy foundation like life itself, and I couldn't help but hold my heart to express the inner emotional pull.

After hearing the song you most want to hear first, then what?  Busting conventions is what this group is all about, made clear from the very start of the concert. So I sat back and enjoyed the ride, as the band plucked from its vast catalogue with only one other pick from Fade.  (It was another easy going tune with three-art harmonies, "It's Not Enough," rounding out that genre along with "Upside-Down" from 1992's May I Sing With Me and the super sweet song about first love, "Our Way To Fall" from 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.)  In softer moments, drummer Georgia Hubley takes the lead vocals and quiets her instruments to hush the sound for sublime songs like "Little Eyes" from 2003's Summer Sun and "Tears are In Your Eyes" also from And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.  YLT also loves to indulge in psychedelic jams, usually as a way to crank up a song to conclusion, however the instrumental "I Heard You Looking Pain," from that reissue Painful, seemed to drag on with the volume way too loud. 

Yo La Tengo's Hoboken cohorts The Feelies warmed up the reflective glow from the adoring audience in stripes and plaids, and returned to fill in as needed. For example, Dave Stamm joined YLT for two early songs he originally recorded with the band, adding to the rockabilly with jangly guitar lines. The night ended with both groups on stage gamely covering The Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty In Pink," almost thirty years to the day the song ended a set at Maxwells -- now that's longevity. Videos and set lists below...

The Feelies Set List
Lo Ya Tengo Set List

Moby Octopad
Tears Are In Your Eyes
Mr. Tough
Is That Enough
Little Eyes
The Cone of Silence
The River of Water
Yellow Sarong
Sudden Organ
Barnaby, Suddenly Working
From a Motel 6 
I Heard You Looking 
Our Way to Fall