Velvety Yo La Tengo
For the first time ever, Yo La Tengo came to town last night, playing a sold out show at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara. Their excuse for not playing here previously? They claimed to have vowed not to play here until Jeff Bridges won an Oscar. And voila, here they were!
Let me just say right up front: middle age becomes this band. The last times we had caught them were in the Bay Area (Berkeley Square and GAMH circa ’93-’95), and there was angst and piss aplenty. It’s nice to see what 15-17 years will do for a band (and, one assumes, the marriage of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley).
At the Velvet, YLT played like they were making up for lost time and opportunities in Santa Barbara. They were in great spirits, particularly an ebullient Ira, and very generous throughout, providing at least twice as many songs as they performed at Coachella over the weekend (reduced sets being part of our complaint with festivals). Their set covered a good amount of their discography, and stylistically spanned across a wide range of 20th and 21st century American music. Everything from doo wop, to thrash rock, to three-part harmonies, to folky madness was exhibited. And, prodded by the great crowd, they came back for three stellar encores (hello, calling Mr. Yorke), including great renditions of Fakebook’s Emulsified and Griselda, a rousing cover of Adam and the Ants’ Ant Music, and a beautiful ballad by John Cale (Hanky Panky Nohow off of his classic “Paris 1919” album, which also includes the plaintive Andalucia covered by YLT on “Fakebook”).
The musicianship was marvelous, with Ira alternately wielding fedback and deftly plucked guitar, Georgia reaching high with her mallets to bring the beat back, and James providing adroit bass and guitar touches (and the occasional “Indie Barry White” delivery).
It was all there, and great beyond expectation. They’ve got it, and they gave it all to us.