Yo La Tengo, Wellington Opera House, Wellington, March 2014
For whatever reason, this gig was scheduled as part of the NZ Festival - Neko Case was another artist playing the same week in amongst a much larger programme with a very heavy arts leaning. I’m not sure why the festival slots in these bands & singers… maybe to gain some cred? However, I should not really moan because it obviously contributed to an interesting format for Yo La Tengo’s show which was going to be two, one hour sets; the first stripped back and acoustic, the second loud… both with surprises and reworkings thrown in. It was a sit down affair - an arts festival crowd, sedate, almost ‘proper’. We’d been at Goldings Free Dive Bar pre-gig, and come time to leave it felt like half the bar got with us and left - apparently the greying or receding hair craft beer set were very big YLT fans (myself included). Once inside we grabbed a beer and headed to our seats. There was a lovely bloke sitting next to me who seemed at least 70 years old. When I asked whether he was just checking out a random festival event or knew the band, he replied that he was indeed a huge Yo La Tengo fan and had come with his son, but could not get seats together. We then had a great chat about music, and he gave me some very good tips, among them War On Drugs who I now love. So, YLT. It opened with an unplugged version of ‘Ohm’ from new album Fade, it’s drone softened to Kaplan and Hubley’s soft vocals. The first half also included two Kiwi songs, highlighting the bond between this American indie institution and our own Flying Nun bands: Snapper’s ‘Gentle Hour’ (seemingly even more poignant now since Peter Gutteridge’s recent death), and later Chris Knox’s ‘Big Day Coming’, dedicated with a laid back “We love Chris very much.”A lot of the first half was from Fade - it fit beautifully in the setting. There is honesty in seeing this three piece live; Yo La Tengo make it look so simple, but there is a complexity to concert, they turned things up, and this gave way to a few older folks & Festival Friends just gathering their coats and politely excusing themselves… “Excuse me…”. It was quite sweet how they came to check it all out, but ultimately were driven out - their limits surpassed. They mined their back catalogue, playing tunes from Fakebook, Painful, Electr-o-pura, and somehow slotted in Adam and The Ants ‘Ant Music’ as well. Fantastic show, even if the environment was a little staid - but it did truly allow you to feast on all Yo La Tengo’s layers, subleties and songwriting skillsiness. As ‘Ohm’ neatly bracketed both halves of the concert, here is a live version from the deluxe version of Fade.