Yo La Tengo played the Paradise – 6/19

Indie rock vets Yo La Tengo played their second of two back-to-back Boston gigs on Comm Ave last Monday.


John Peel famously described prolific post-punk institution The Fall as “always different…always the same” – a sentiment that got straight to the heart of the band’s ever-shapeshifting but unmistakable sound. One could describe long-tenured statesmen of indie rock Yo La Tengo similarly. The Hoboken trio of Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew have covered an awe-inspiring breadth of sonic ground on record and during their always-adventurous live shows over the years, but always come away sounding like no one but themselves.

True to form, the band brought their roadshow to Boston last week for a two-night run that included new songs, deep cuts, covers, guests and all things singularly YLT. As they have for some years now, the band traveled sans opener and opted for an evening-with style show that included a quiet(ish) set and a loud one – plus encore. That first set pulled heavily from February’s This Stupid World, the trio’s excellent seventeenth LP, turning down the noisy hum of the title track’s album version to a whisper to open the night before revving things up with the propulsive “Sinatra Drive Breakdown” and eventually closing with a haunting “Miles Away.” The band inevitably deliver at least one hall-of-famer per album, and I’d argue that Hubley-sung gem is the frontrunner from this particular disc.

Set two kicked off with the relaxed sway of There’s a Riot Going On‘s “You Are Here,” then dove into a pair of fan-favorites from 1997 classic I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One (bass line workout “Moby Octopad” and the catchy “Stockholm Syndrome” – showcases for both the four-string prowess and voice of McNew). The set dipped as far back as 1992’s May I Sing With Me for an “86-Second Blowout” that lasted approximately that and finally swung back to Heart for the night’s long jam, a droning and feedback-drenched rendition of the YLT take on The Beach Boys’ “Little Honda” featuring some signature Kaplan guitar mangling.

For the evening’s encore, Kaplan began with a tongue-in-cheek recounting of an alleged arrangement between the band and The Cure’s Robert Smith to cover one another’s songs on their current overlapping tours. Smith and company sadly did not put a spin on “From a Motel 6” in Mansfield Sunday night, but Hubley’s gentle “Friday I’m In Love” held up Yo La Tengo’s end of the deal. The show closed with a pair of covers from the universe of Sun Ra, whose Arkestra are frequent guests of YLT’s annual Hannukah shows. Local soul legend Barrence Whitfield and Red Sox organist Josh Kantor joined in for a spirited “Unmask the Batman” before Hubley took center stage once more to bid us goodnight with a dreamy “Dreaming.” It was a beautiful, unpredictable time, as always.

Scroll below for photos from the whole night.