Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo
On Friday, March 19th, Yo La Tengo brought what they've got to Barcelona and it was good. Their nearly two-hour show at Apolo ebbed between guitar thrashing, psychedelic jams and lullabies in a perfectly timed medley of all they do best. They rocked, then lulled, then popped, then rocked and lulled again, and capped it all off with a whistle.
The trio took requests from the outcries of adoring fans, but mostly stuck to their set list, playing off their new album, Popular Songs, and dipping into their vast repertoire of fan favourites, obscurities and covers. They took special time to perform songs by Alex Chilton, an American musician and producer best known for his group 'Big Star', who passed away on March 17th. Yo La Tengo interpreted Chilton's songs or the songs he'd taught them with particular sweetness, often showcasing the soft nurturing voice of singer and drummer Georgia Hubley. Her voice is so gentle that it caused a communal calming, even a communal "shushing". It was really quite tender.
Contrast this gentleness with frontman Ira Kaplan's air-guitar smashing and on-the-knees wailing. I've never seen a musician come so close so many times to destroying an instrument. He seemed possessed by two masters: one who commanded his sick guitar hero awesomeness and another who restrained the compulsion with last minute pulls on the leash. Pretty great to watch, even better to hear, because behind Kaplan's screaming guitar was James McNew's heavy bass line and Hubley's drum mastery. Both watched and responded to Kaplan with that familiarity that can only come after about 20 years of rocking out.
And perhaps that's what makes the difference between this group and any other. They are, obviously, well-practised and singularly talented, but they experience their music as one, speaking a private language that I love to hear and don't need to understand.
Thank goodness, Yo La Tengo is returning in a few months to play Primavera Sound. Look for them under the alias 'Condo Fucks', a side project with a made-up history—perhaps a mask to hide Kaplan from his restrainer. I'll be waiting on the sidelines for a piece of a smashed guitar.