Let Me Entertain You: Yo La Tengo @ Trocadero 1.21.11

Expectations play a substantial role in even the most casual concertgoer’s experience. Most often, you hope that the band’s live show lives up to your expectations based on their records. When a band has been around as long and has established a reputation as lauded as Yo La Tengo, pleasing audiences can still be a tall order. Do they want to hear old songs? New songs? Hits? Fan favorites? The options are seemingly endless. Yo La Tengo’s latest tour boils down their decades-long career into two 45-minute sets, and leaves the contents of the first up to the decisive powers of a whimsical carnival wheel.

The choices upon which the wheel’s pointer could land were about as varied as any regular Yo La Tengo show could be. Along with the potential to hear sets of songs that feature a name in the title or begin with the letter ‘S’ was the chance for a set that the trio would perform as their raucous garage alter-egos, Condo Fucks, or a recreation of their Freewheeling Yo La Tengo musical Q&A tour from a few years back. On this, the first night of this novel tour, the wheel so boldly chose Sounds Of Science Pt. 2, the second half of their 90-minute instrumental film score. As you can imagine, that selection was greeted with a collective groan from the audience, most of whom were eager to see the wheel’s most mysterious offering, the so-called Sitcom Theater. Though Ira and James mused that they expected such harsh reactions when designing the wheel, they kept to their word and presented what turned out to be a rather captivating opening set. Though not accompanied by its namesake visuals, the piece flowed through several distinct movements, some of which were as exhilarating as some of the proper songs that came with Set Two.

Returning to the stage after a short break (after all, they did just play a continuous 45-minute piece), the trio quickly made up for any of the crowd’s disappointment with the first set by opening with the cozy “Autumn Sweater.” From then on, it was a solid string of well-known favorites, including a few tunes from their two most recent albums. Every Yo La Tengo show has at least one epic jam, and this night’s was a thundering rendition of “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind,” the lead track from I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. With the exception of a delicate Sun Ra tune, Yo La Tengo’s iconic covers were notably missing from the night’s performance. In the encore, though, they remedied that with a searing take on Devo’s “Gates Of Steel” and an acoustic version of an NRBQ classic. Even their ‘regular’ set turned out to be unpredictable, proving that Yo La Tengo are masters of their own past, present and future, wheel or no wheel.

Click the picture at the top of this post to see more pictures of Yo La Tengo in concert!!

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~ by E. on January 25, 2011.

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