Yo La Tengo | 04.12.07

The band ended the set by tearing through an almost punk rendition of "Watch Out for Me Ronnie" and a stunning performance of their epic "The Story of Yo La Tengo" (which featured a guitar freak-out that gave me goose bumps).

 

The Pageant, St. Louis

If consistency is the mark of a good band, then Yo La Tengo is definitely one of the best bands making music today. For over 20 years, the indie rock legends Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley (picking up bassist James McNew in the early '90s) have been churning out great records full of rock ranging from ambient and experimental to poppy. I had never seen these veterans in concert, so I jumped at the chance to catch them at The Pageant, having no idea what to expect. I was surprised and impressed with the performance in every way. The concert was like a rollercoaster ride. The band showed an incredible amount of versatility, probably more than any other band I've ever seen.

The show started off with five drawn-out experimental jams. With a fuller sound than any trio I've heard, the band rocked through feedback-heavy songs. On songs like "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," Kaplan was freaking out on his guitar (even swinging it around in the air at times) while Hubley and McNew kept a stellar beat. This went on for quite a while without a word from the band to the audience. Just as I found myself growing bored, the band changed pace. For the first time, they chatted with the crowd, making some witty remarks about the show being an MC5 concert and some snarky comments about the emergence of digital music downloading.

The next couple of songs sounded like they were coming from a completely different band. They played their happier, bouncier selections from I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, their latest Matador release. Piano pop songs like "Beanbag Chair" and "Mr. Tough" got the mopey-looking hipsters in the crowd dancing with glee. The whole time, the band was jumping around on instruments, each of them playing at least four throughout the night. They even dedicated a song to Mississippi Nights, which they took credit for killing by playing one good show after a long string of bad ones.

After four songs of quaint pop, the band jumped right back into the post-rock. This short section, though, seamlessly transitioned into my favorite section of the concert. The band played "Autumn Sweater" and "Sugarcube," the two best songs off of their 1997 masterpiece I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, back to back. These songs were executed with perfection and really pleased the crowd. After this, the band ended the set by tearing through an almost punk rendition of "Watch Out for Me Ronnie" and a stunning performance of their epic "The Story of Yo La Tengo" (which featured a guitar freak-out that gave me goose bumps).

The band, though, was far from finished and played two encores. They took a request from one audience member that asked for the beautiful ambient instrumental "Green Arrow." They also played a song by the Flaming Groovies, which they claimed was fitting because it was on the same album as "St. Louis Blues." The night ended with the quiet acoustic duet "By the Time It Gets Dark." After more than two hours, the show was over and I was left impressed by the almost epic nature of the show. The band seemed to almost be playing for their own enjoyment. It's amazing to see an older band still having fun playing on stage; we can only hope for another 20 years of pure brilliance. | Pete Wissinger

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