Gig review – Yo La Tengo


Yo La Tengo – Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, June 6

This is the first night in the UK of Yo La Tengo’s Re-inventing The Wheel tour. The aim of these shows is that each show is show of two halves with no support act where anything goes-and the wheel has the final say. The wheel is spun, giving endless possibilities of what they might play in the first half, followed by a Yo La Tengo show in the second.

What struck me the last time I saw Yo La tengo live (Usher Hall in 2005, with Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, if anyone’s interested), was that they have a great collective sense of humour between the three members, Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan and James McNew. They crack jokes about what we might expect, and get a member of the audience on stage to spin the wheel. Will we get them performing the entire sit-com sketch (which hasn’t happened yet, on this tour, apparently) or…

We get Dump! Dump is the side project which James McNew has performed with over the years. The set starts with ‘Slow Down’ which is one of the more mellow numbers in this part of the set. While I’m not the authority on Yo La Tengo who can tell you everythign about each track…it doens’t matter. I’m just swept away, along with everyone else in the audience. My perosnal highlight is the re-working of Prince’s ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ originally on Purple Rain. Dump did, in fact, release an entire album of Prince covers, appropriately (if baitingly) entitled That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice?.

The second set is Yo La tengo – but being Yo La Tengo, it’s not just the same songs that they play every night. What is brought home is that Messrs. McNew and Kaplan are most definitely up there on a par with the likes of J Mascis and Thurston Moore in terms of the guitar-awesomeness stakes. After twenty minutes of ear drum buzz wonderfulness, thy take the pace right down and give us a frail and gorgeous ‘Tears Are In Your Eyes’ with Georgia on lead vocals.

YLT have always given the world a mixture of feedback madness and understood the beauty of the sugar-coated pop song. It’s great to hear ‘Beanbag Chair’ with Ira on piano (am I the only person who thinks this is like Ben Folds Five? In a good way, obviously!) and to hear the two worlds coming together in the song that got me into them in the first place, ‘Sugarcube.’ I leave with my ears ringing…

This was the first gig I’d been to since the birth of my son nearly three months ago, and it was an awesome ‘welcome back’ into the gig-going world. Long may Yo La Tengo flourish.

Yo La Tengo -‘Beanbag Chair.’ mp3

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