Yo La Tengo
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- Bush Hall, Hammersmith »
- Yo La Tengo »
Bush Hall is an oven. Outside, autumn is doing its best to black out the surroundings of Shepherd’s Bush at a time earlier than summer-bronzed attendees have become temporarily accustomed to, but within the former bingo (and snooker) hall’s four decorative walls all and sundry are combating sweat trickling from places they never even knew could perspire. All and sundry are losing.
On stage, Hoboken-spawned trio Yo La Tengo are fighting the (almost literally) rising tide with counter offensives of awesome indie-rock, with the emphasis firmly on the ‘rock’ aspect of said awkwardly-shoehorned-into pigeonhole. The band are here to showcase a selection of songs from their at-the-time forthcoming long-player I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass; of the new compositions aired, only the album’s preceding single_ ‘Mr Tough’_ is truly met with a semblance of recognition by the sold-out audience. A jaunty and sprightly number, characterised by Ira Kaplan’s incredibly high-pitched vocal performance, the song’s an early highlight of a set that runs to well over two hours in length.
All and sundry, come the evening’s climax, are visibly exhausted. Happily delirious though they may be, there’s a train of thought that implies they’re as dizzied by dehydration as they are the intoxicatingly diverse aural delights on offer. But we’re ahead of ourselves. Rewind…
‘Season Of The Shark’ accurately summarises half of Yo La Tengo’s set this evening: the band – completed, of course, by James McNew (pictured left) on bass and keys and Kaplan’s wife Georgia Hubley on drums and keys – switch from serene passages of sweet indie-pop, a la the aforementioned Summer Sun LP highlight, to screaming squalls of intense guitar riffing that blindside the front row, leaving them slumped onto monitors, stage lights burning the back of their necks like newspaper lit by an unattended grill. _‘The Story Of Yo La Tengo’ is one such effort: the set opener, incidentally the parting shot on I Am Not Afraid…, is executed with such ferocity that McNew snaps a bass string, something he later tells DiS that he’s not done for years. Despite the heat – or perhaps because of it – Yo La Tengo are (almost literally) on fire.
Older material is, quite obviously, well received, and as the set progresses it prioritises these songs. ‘Autumn Sweater’ is a personal standout, primarily because this writer wasn’t in possession of a Yo La Tengo record until 1997’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One; _‘Deeper Into Movies’ and ‘Stockholm Sydrome’, from the same album, also make welcome appearances, the latter forming part of the trio’s second encore (their first is comprised of two Arthur Lee-penned songs).
Tonight’s closer is another cover, of the late Sandy Denny’s ‘By The Time’. As its final echoes fade, the applause is deafening, as are the cries for yet another encore. True professionals to the end, through, Yo La Tengo leave everyone – physically wilted but nevertheless waltzing six inches above the ground, high on the uppers of the last two-and-something hours – wanting more. Come November their appetites can again be sated, as the trio return to European shores. Be there,_ all and sundry_.
Check here to see Yo La Tengo’s upcoming UK shows.
_Photographs by Lucy Johnston
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