Friday, November 2, 2007

The Freewheeling Yo La Tengo

Last night at the Palace Of Fine Arts, conditions were not ideal for photography. Luckily, they were more than ideal for sound, and those in attendance got a fantastic show. In what could almost be considered a double bill, Jonathan Richman opened for Yo La Tengo. Both sets were good humored, fantastically entertaining, and musically rewarding.

Richman's set was ultimately a unique blend of singer-songwriter melodies, social commentary, and comedy act. It was vastly different from his output with the Modern Lovers, but pretty much a "par for the course" performance for thos familiar with his more recent work. "Par for the course" in this case was no mean feat, and Richman delivered a great set of sweet tunes. His performance was compelling enough that it even demanded an encore, which is unusual for an opener, to say the least.

When Yo La Tengo took the stage at 9:15, the crowd was more than ready for the show to start. The band opened with a great rendition of "Madeline", and then led the way through a two hour set of covers, conversation, and Q&A. The "freewheeling" format of the tour consists of the band answering questions between songs, and taking requests as well. The Q&A sessions were wildly entertaining, and a ton of fun. Ira Kaplan and James McNew were both extremely funny, and there were some great anecdotes as well.

Musically, the set stayed largely in chill out acoustic regions, with a few rocking jams here and there. There were a bunch of treats though, driven largely by request: The band played the Daniel Johnston tune "Speeding Motorcycle", as well as an impromptu version of Prince's "When You Were Mine". There were tons of old favorites in place as well, notably "Autumn Sweater". The band also continues to focus on their new album quite a bit, for which you'll hear no complaints here. "Mr. Tough" and "Black Flowers" were standouts.

Overall, the show was a blast, and a bit more personal than the Fillmore show of earlier this year. While it's great to see the band rock out in performance mode, it was also great to see this intimate show where they could be more irreverant and really let their personalities drive the show. Next stop: trying to locate James McNew's Prince covers record....!

Prince - When You Were Mine
James McNew (Of Yo La Tengo, Playing as Dump) - When You Were Mine (cover)


JP said...

I was there last night too and I have to say the title of your blog is particularly appropriate in the context of last evening.

What was with all the hippies there?