AFTER almost 30 years together, indie rock darlings Yo La Tengo have to find new ways of keeping things interesting for themselves, never mind their loyal fanbase.
Yo La Tengo
Previous live outings have ranged from protracted, psychedelic jam sessions to a wheel-of-fortune – would the pointer land on the dramatic re-enactment of a scene from a favourite TV show or would bassist James McNew have to deliver a prepared lecture on a topic of his choice?
This time round, in support of their latest album Fade, they have gone for the slightly more conventional option of providing their own warm-up act, with an acoustic set highlighting the sweetly melodic side of their sound, before the more familiar electric onslaught of the second half during which the trio let rip with primitive rhythms, penetrating basslines, heavy distortion, demonic keyboards, abandoned shaking of maracas and lead vocals from all three members.
This yielded a mixed bag, ranging from a playful falsetto funk interlude to the diffident indie mumbling of Is That Enough? One minute they were a group who didn’t take themselves too seriously, the next one who gave themselves way too much latitude. But even that indulgent streak is something of a tonic at a time when being “indie” has less to do with displaying independent spirit, something they exhibited happily in a freewheeling encore of song requests, cover versions and an unrehearsed guest spot from fellow independent Stephen Pastel.