Live Review of Yo La Tengo at The Barbican Centre 20th March 2013

A tree stood behind each member of Yo La Tengo as they entertained 1,949 fully seated fans at The Barbican; three trees, like a leafy trident, representing perfectly Yo La Tengo's stature in the industry. 

Yo La Tengo

Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew - like the object d'art trees behind them represented - have firm roots in their field. They're weathered; sturdy, reliable, and not answerable to a sudden shift should the winds change. I'm going to stop saying trees now, as, 'fauxliage' aside; this was a truly lovely concert. The band were tender in their approach, the purity in their vocals were crystal. This same dreamy fuzz of melancholic has kept fans captivated for almost 30 years now.

Kaplan - an accomplished frontman - was comfortable yet addicted. He could murmur out a languid joke and spin his guitar manically within minutes of each other and neither seemed contrived or out of place. At one point, he almost certainly made angry love to his synthesiser. It sounded weird, but Yo La Tengo are weird. The night was split in half. Latecomers will have wondered into a haze of acoustic fudge as YLT strummed and gently trilled the audience into a pseudo-comatose, while an intermission saw an electronically fused, more energetic second half supersede the first portion. 

Kaplan would describe YLT as a rock band before attempting a warmly received Basil Fawlty joke. But while rock bands exude sex appeal, draw upon jealousy and generally flaunt, YLT don't. Their demeanour is gentile. I want to eat a large meal with them outside on a warm evening by a cornfield. I want to help them move house. Their appearance befitted a trio ready to undertake a spring clean, not set the heads of nearly 2000 to 'nod'. But they did. 

And while Kaplan lazily switched between languorous and feverish, McNew would provide locomotive bass - stern faced and nodding as vigorously as the sold out Barbican Hall. Hubley, though, for this reviewer, stole the show. She has mastered the wholly underrated art of singing and drumming simultaneously; her voice was unflinching, almost as if she'd been tasked with vocals alone. No one displayed a weakness, though; such is their intimacy and confidence as a three-piece.

Highlights included I'll Be Around, Before We Run and Paddle Forward, while Our Way to Fall and Take Care were beautifully selected encores. A cover of Adam Ant's Ant Music paid homage - such is the band's humility - to London. This was a thoroughly pleasant and often enthralling evening. Here's hoping Fade can be the album to see YLT deservedly acquire wider recognition. Not that they need it. 


Jack de Aguilar

Photo by: Carlie Armstrong

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