Yo La Tengo at the Roseland Ballroom, New York, New York | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo at the Roseland Ballroom, New York, New York, September 26th, 2009

Oct 07, 2009 Photography by Laura Leebove Web Exclusive
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Since Yo La Tengo is forgoing its usual winter run of eight Hanukkah shows in the band’s hometown of Hoboken, N.J., an extra-special close-to-home gig was inevitable while touring for its newest release, Popular Songs (Matador). At New York’s Roseland Ballroom on September 25, the Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. played a pre-show set in the lobby, the rowdy dudes of Atlanta’s Black Lips opened in the theater, comedian John Oliver emceed, and concertgoers were treated to a light show by Joshua White and Gary Panter during Yo La Tengo’s set.

Much of the two-hour run was made up of new material, including the 10-minute-long “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven,” the funky, organ-heavy “Periodically Double or Triple,” and the fuzzed-out “Nothing to Hide.” Most exciting, though, was the string section that sat behind Ira Kaplan and his keyboard. The ensemble gave Popular Songs opener “Here to Fall” the cinematic quality found on record and brought more Motown flavor to the love song “If It’s True” (I dare you to even try to get that song out of your head).

Aside from those tracks, Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew managed their arsenal of instruments flawlessly without the extra hired hands as they frantically traded instrumental and vocal roles throughout the night. Kaplan was a mainstay on guitar and also took on keyboard, organ, and tambourine duties, while he lent his tenor to such tracks as “Avalon or Someone Very Similar” and “Mr. Tough.” Hubley was often positioned behind the drum set, but she also played guitar on tracks like “I’m On My Way” and “Cherry Chapstick.” Her soft alto took lead once in a while, but more often than not she could be found either duetting with Kaplan or McNew or providing airy oohs and alalalas to the background. McNew floated from bass guitar to organ to percussion, and led numbers such as “I’m On My Way” and “Stockholm Syndrome.”

While it certainly was entertaining to see Kaplan twitch and ultimately spaz out during his guitar solos, eyes often shifted to the accompanying light show behind him and the band. Neon colors swirled and flashed, sometimes looking like pieces of cellophane and other times like simple blasts of tie-dye.

As for the non-Popular songs, Yo La Tengo covered its bases with a mix that well represented its vast back catalog. The sunny pop came from “Mr. Tough,” the melancholy lo-fi from “Tears Are in Your Eyes,” and the full-on, drawn-out jams from “Blue Line Swinger.” The band also took on “Dog Meat,” a raw Flamin’ Groovies cover found on Fuckbook, the album the band released in March 2009 under the moniker the Condo Fucks.

“We need heroes, Roseland,” Oliver said during his stand-up routine. Kaplan, Hubley, and McNew might not be quite that in the traditional sense, but when you consider the number of years the group has been together (25), the number of albums recorded (12, plus film scores such as Adventureland and the Condo Fucks release—both of those just this year), and the number of genres spanned throughout their career, they might as well be.


1. From a Motel 6

2. More Stars Than There Are in Heaven

3. Avalon or Someone Very Similar

4. Stockholm Syndrome

5. Tears Are in Your Eyes

6. Here to Fall

7. If It’s True

8. Mr. Tough

9. I’m On My Way

10. Tom Courtenay

11. When It’s Dark

12. Cherry Chapstick

13. Periodically Double or Triple

14. Deeper Into Movies

15. Nothing to Hide

16. Blue Line Swinger


1. Autumn Sweater

2. Dog Meat (Condo Fucks)

3. The Whole of the Law



Author rating: 8/10


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