Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Yo La Tengo, The Horse's Ha @ The Opera House (October 3, 2009)

Yo La Tengo @ The Opera House: photo by Michael Ligon

Update [Oct 12/09, 12:18 am]: Review now up.

While Nuit Blanche was to(and eventually did) take over my senses last weekend, my auditory senses were once again given the pleasure of hearing Yo La Tengo live, this time around at The Opera House earlier in the evening. Touring to promote their most recent album "Popular Songs" out on Matador, I'd only made an effort to finally listen to the album just prior to the show, but it was immediately apparent that the band's pop sensibilities were as strong as ever.

I was running slightly behind schedule, making into the venue just after openers Chicago's The Horse's Ha had begun. At the time I hadn't realized that the crystalline vocals I'd heard were of Freakwater's Janet Beveridge Bean. The music, embellished with subtle acoustic instrumentation and cello, was of a folk-ish quality that while had its merit was only slightly of interest to the chatty crowd. That said there was a polite expression of appreciation by the crowd but as an opener for Yo La Tengo they seemed a little out of sorts in my opinion. As an aside I just like to mention that I'd spent my first 10 minutes of my arrival at the merch table, eventually buying a t-shirt(which turned out to be small when I got home, grrr) and exchanging a pleasantries with Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan to who I'd mentioned I'd seen Yo La Tengo performing in Barcelona at the Primavera Sound Festival earlier in the year and was looking forward to seeing perform again that night.

With a catalogue as expansive as Yo La Tengo, they have virtually any number of setlists they could have pulled out of their hat, and that night it was all about pop music. Steering clear from their harsher, noisier experiments for the most part, it was surprising how low-key, and pop-based the set list was, coinciding nicely with the similar tone of their most recent album "Popular Songs" which there was a heavy emphasis on. All three members(Georgia, Ira, and James) traded off lead vocals during the night with the mood shifting as members also switched up on instruments. The nine-minute plus slow-building 'More Stars Than There Are In Heaven' was a surprising choice for their second song. 'Periodically Double Or Triple' was a fun organ-based, minimalist soul track. 'If It's True' had a cool Motown-ish melodic quality. The psychedelic-tinged 'Here To Fall' reminded me that they aren't all about brushed drum rhythms and minimalist bass lines. The remainder of the setlist was a patchwork of their past catalogue with a bunch from "I Can Hear Your Heart Beating As One"(highlights including the James-sung 'Stockholm Syndrome' and the main-set closer sugar-rush of 'Sugarcube') and a few select tunes from other past albums. As the setlist revealed, there were also a few covers thrown in from Devo and The Velvet Underground during the band's two encores. It was a thoroughly enjoyable if not too exhausting of a set which in a way was a blessing for those of us who planned to take in Nuit Blanche after midnight. And it was all too funny when Ira wished us happy art-gallery hopping.

Also check out Chromewaves' photos and review of the show.

Photos: Yo La Tengo, The Horse's Ha @ The Opera House in Toronto (October 3, 2009)
MySpace: The Horse's Ha
MySpace: Yo La Tengo

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