LIVE REVIEW: Yo La Tengo in Boston, MA (06.18.23)
On Sunday night, Yo La Tengo played their first of two nearly sold-out shows at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. At one point, guitarist/singer Ira Kaplan said: “So I guess another band that’s been around as long as us is playing tonight. Why aren’t you at the Cure?”
A couple of dudes called out that the tickets are $500 and it’s too far away. I doubt anyone attending the Yo La Tengo show left disappointed. The band played two sets with no opening act. They performed for more than two and a half hours. This year, the indie rock band released their 17th full-length studio album, This Stupid World. They played a bunch of songs from the latest album as well as from their impressive back catalog.
Somehow, I missed Yo La Tengo even though I love shoegaze, electronica and noise pop. I think I was too busy listening to British bands. They have that melancholy, emotive, darkness underneath the prettiness. I’m rectifying that and am now a massive fan. They put on a phenomenal show with a high level of musicianship, ease, grungy guitar, pretty vocals and experimental noise pop bliss. They all casually moved around the stage to play another instrument or sing. Particularly Kaplan. There were multiple guitar changes, impressive noodling and reverb from Kaplan. He’d be bent over his guitar or putting it up against a speaker to create various sonic effects.
The first set was mellow, soft, slow and the second set got more energetic and loud. They’re an extremely talented group; they all sing and play multiple instruments. Bassist James McNew sang the jazzy “Tonight’s Episode” with guttural, Elvis-y vocals and drummer Georgia Hubley sang the forlorn, beautiful “Aselestine,” both off the new album. Kaplan introduced the new song “Until It Happens” as a “cautionary tale.” Other stand-outs from the first set included the pretty, melancholy “I’ll Be Around,” from the 2013 album Fade and a slow, gorgeous, nostalgic “The Hour Grows Late,” which reminds me of Pavement’s “Range Life.”
There was an immediate energy shift during the second set as they opened with the heavily experimental “This Stupid Life.” Intense double-drumming and keyboards fueled that song. There wasn’t a lot of chat as Yo La Tengo focused on their skill and musicianship. A few songs into the second set, Kaplan announced a signing break as he took two albums from a woman at the front of the stage around for everyone to sign. “When you’re talking about the show and how long we played, this counts,” Kaplan quipped. They included more older songs in the second set. Stand-outs included a dreamy, wistful “Madeline,” the whimsical “Beanbag Chair” and the supercool, churning “Sugarcube.”
For the encore, Yo La Tengo played three covers: The Monkees’ “Gonna Buy Me a Dog,” Sandy Denny’s “By the Time It Got Dark” and The Fugs’ “Frenzy,” for which they brought out Damon & Naomi as well as Willie Alexander (Velvet Underground) to play with them.
Now married couple Kaplan and Hubley formed the band in 1984 in New Jersey. Although they’ve had numerous bass players, McNew has been in Yo La Tengo since the early 90s.