Yo La Tengo at First Avenue, 2/4/13

Categories: Last Night

When the band returned, there was far more room onstage, and immediately a more electric feel to the proceedings. Yo La Tengo slowly built up momentum with the krautrock-y "Stupid Things" and began what would be a barrage of lengthy solo passages from Kaplan. In this case, on the noodle-draped end of the spectrum. A squalling, low roar rose next as they revamped the Summer Sun-era relaxant "Today is the Day" into a fuzz-ridden riot. More intense convulsing from Kaplan came with it, and with his electric guitar slung low, he transformed into a tantrum-like state for several minutes.

McNew's hypnotic rising and falling action on his bass encited cheers for "Moby Octopad," and the place really erupted for the first of several times for the rest of the set. For many, 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One was when Yo La Tengo became a dynasty, and this mix of doo-wop lyricism and that nasty-ass organ solo has aged extremely well. "Is That Enough" was jarring for its simplicity in rock chord strumming to follow, but no momentum was lost for another I Can Hear staple, the gaze-y "Autumn Sweater," which brought out Kaplan's vocal gifts as he toyed with the words, forming them differently in his mouth each time.
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Photos by Erik Hess
"Big Day Coming" brought each member of the group to turn up the amps, and then the night just gave way to a load of noise and as much grandstanding as they could tolerate in themselves. It's likely that Kaplan sang "Let's wake up the neighbors," but it was impossible to tell with the din pouring out from onstage. He even grabbed a second guitar mid-song to lay waste to. When finished, he rewarded himself with a slug of beer.  

If there were any criticism to levy against Yo La Tengo during this night of many pleasures, it would be that Fade closer "Before We Run" sounded naked without the album's gorgeous orchestral backing. Well, if you can't have a trombone, you might as well get a lengthy noise passage, right? "Ohm" returned as a "plugged-in" reprise next, and then a ragged "From a Motel 6" loaded with whammy bar punctuations.

And then, to the delight of many, the second set closed out with a 20-minute, Goliath-sized version of "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind." Needless to say, the temptation to employ Townshend and Van Halen-esque tactics was too much for Kaplan. While McNew and Hubley kept time patiently, trippy projections dancing all over the stage, the frontman had his shirt tails flopping the wake of his instrument abuse. It could've gone on three times as long and not been long enough, and they left the stage to a cavalcade of appreciation.

To start the encore, Kaplan commented first on the "minus 100 outside" temparature and that they were from "the balmy Northeast" before launching into a song that they weren't going to play, a deconstructed version of the fuzz-laden "Cherry Chapstick." Hearing it acoustically is hearing it anew, and it proved for the umpteenth time that evening that an original arrangement is only one way of many to skin a song.
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