April 1, 2024

Yo La Tengo played Elsewhere Hall

Yo La Tengo headlined a benefit showcase in support of United Musicians and Allied Workers, a group who are currently trying to pass a bill in Congress to pay musicians a living wage, at Brooklyn's Elsewhere Hall.

I'm pretty certain that in their decades-long career, Yo La Tengo have never played the same set twice. Showing up one of their shows is always a treat and sure to surprise in one way or another and as they headlined a benefit to support a new bill that proposes a new streaming royalty to artists, the iconic New Jersey trio took to the stage in a mostly-stripped down setting to deliver an acoustic-forward set that included covers as well as many of their storied classics. Opening with the groovy and extended jam of "Sinatra Drive Breakdown" that band opened things up early on in the night with Ira wasting no time shredding away at his acoustic guitar that was amped up in the same fashion as Nirvana's infamous Unplugged performance and allowed him to tear into the song and explode the band's otherwise reserved sound. The always energized Kaplan spoke to the crowd between each number to at times introduce the next song and at other times would just make some entertaining small talk as he tuned his guitar. "Is there any song you want to hear?" he asked earlier on "I'm not saying we'll definitely play it, but we might" he added. A few people called out for "Moby Octopad" and he complied, responding "this is an ideal set up for that song with the acoustic guitar and all." It was another pumped up rendition of the song that led the group to then celebrate the return of baseball season and introduce a deep-cut Neil Young cover as they rocked through "For the Turnstiles" with esteemed vibrance and killer power. As always, anything from their catalogue and clearly their extensive book of covers knows no bounds which adds even more excitement to any one of their shows. Georgia led the new tune "Miles Away," which was of course given the acoustic rendition, and was a soothing number that cooled the air, her brushstrokes giving more texture to the night while McNew's looping bass lines kept the pacing alive with a marching bliss. "This one's a palette cleanser" Ira joked before the band ripped into Black Flag's bombastic "Nervous Breakdown," which found the band turning up their amps to the appropriate level and giving the hardcore anthem a newfound acoustic rhythm that only bolstered the band's take and added even more layers to their already top-notch repertoire of covers. "Our Way to Fall" was a late highlight and was delivered with flawless execution, the band moving in unison and with such brilliant control and trust, it was a magical sight to witness. Living in the moment and feeling whatever song comes next gives each of their shows such a unique feel, a rarity in indie rock, but with influences as vast as Yo La Tengo's it makes sense that they'd buck tradition and go for the unexpected. To end the night, they chose to cover a song by Sun Ra Orkestra that Ira claimed is one they've probably never played themselves. Always a step ahead and with a surprise up their collective sleeves, catching a Yo La Tengo concert continues to always be the right idea of the moment that consistently leads to one of the best musical nights of the year.

Set list:

01 "Sinatra Drive Breakdown"
02 "The Summer"
03 "For the Turnstiles" [Neil Young cover]
04 "Moby Octopad" [acoustic version]
05 "Miles Away" [acoustic version]
06 "Demons"
07 "Nervous Breakdown" [Black Flag cover]
08 "Andalucia" [John Cale cover]
09 "Our Way to Fall" 
10 "Somebody's in Love" [Sun Ra cover]

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