Thursday, October 05, 2006

THE STORY OF YO LA TENGO

Other than Frank Sinatra and recently Kanye West, Yo La Tengo are easily Hoboken, New Jersey’s most identifiable, longstanding and proud claim-to-fame. And subsequently their Jersey shows have become the stuff of indie-rock legend, thanks to their commitment to playing almost-annual Hanukah in their burg’s similarly legendary Maxwell’s. But for their current album, the jammy, guitar-centric and especially excellent I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, a title that allegedly comes from a threat made by Phoenix Suns ballplayer Kurt Thomas to New York Knick Stephon Marbury, they made one Hoboken-area appearance in nearby Jersey City (screw you, NYC!), which I was lucky enough to attend.

The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre is an old, elegant theater that now mostly shows movie screenings. But somehow, amidst the lofty ceilings and low-hanging chandeliers, it seemed like a fitting palace for a Yo La Tengo show. Openers Why? did their metaphysical indie-rock thing, but the fun started right after they finished.

As they were setting up Yo La Tengo’s stage, an announcement came over the PA in a big, echoey voice… “From Paramus, New Jersey… RRROOOOLLLLLLIIINNNNNGGGG THUUUUUUUNNDEERRRR!!!” And then the theme from Magnum P.I. started up. For the next 30 seconds, we watched two 40-something dudes roller-skating around one another (and the band’s equipment!) narrowly dodging amps and guitars. At one point they tried to skate through one another’s legs… and it worked once! The second time, they both fell over. It was fun and ridiculous, and the perfect preamble to the night’s show.

Yo La Tengo played an exciting, engaging set of classics and songs from their new album. Guitarist/singer Ira Kaplan flung himself around the stage with Hendrixian verve and, in some songs, he shook it in front of his amp to get more feedback. His wife, drummer Georgia Hubley, sang some songs from behind her kit and even switched with Ira near the end for a song. Honestly, “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m goodkind,” from the new album, stands out as one of the best “indie-rock” jams I’ve seen in a long time, without becoming pretentious. For their encore, multi-instrumentalist James McNew thanked his parents, who were in the audience, for turning him onto cool music when he was young. He said that without them, they wouldn’t be able to play the next song, and they launched into the Rolling Stones’ “Rocks Off.” It surely didn’t sound like the Stones, without the horns, but it’s more interesting how it sounded like Yo La Tengo, with Kaplan and McNew singing the verses in unison. After their sleepy Summer Sun album, it’s refreshing to see Yo La Tengo get excited again.

After the show, my girlfriend Lisa and I walked around Jersey City a little and got back on the PATH back to Manhattan. There were fans admiring their new vinyl purchases from the show and basically just beaming about what a great show it had been. I couldn’t help but agree.

Setlist:

  1. Sugarcube
  2. Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind
  3. Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)
  4. The Weakest Part
  5. Sometimes I Don’t Get You
  6. Winter A-Go-Go
  7. Mr. Tough
  8. Beanbag Chair
  9. I Feel Like Going Home
  10. Stockholm Syndrome
  11. I Should Have Known Better
  12. Watch Out For Me Ronnie
  13. Tom Courtenay
  14. Rocks Off
  15. The Story Of Yo La Tengo
  16. I Heard You Looking

1 comment:

bryan said...

wish i could have seen rolling thunder... oops i mean yo la tengo. that just sounds ridiculous.

i totally agree about "Pass the hatchet, I think I'm goodkind" - it's a tasty little tune (if you can call a 10 minute + song "little").