Yo La Tengo with Robyn Hitchcock
Concert appearance: Sat., 6 May 2000
Gardner Arts Centre
Brighton, England UK
No set list available.
Yo La Tengo (and guests)
London SE1 Royal Festival Hall
Live collaborations - brrrr. Nominally the preserve of old geezers who ask
other old geezers along to play rhythm ukelele at the Albert Hall, the
practice nowadays summons up visions of Chris de Burgh and Elton John doing
some ghastly 'Candle Lady In The Red Wind' medley for a credit
card-sponsored stadium gig, but it can work if the vibes are right. Take
Kevin Shields playing guitar on Primal Scream's tour, for instance. But
former Spaceman Sonic Boom playing black boxes and tambourine in Yo La
Tengo? With old cult dude Robyn Hitchcock (now solo, once a Soft Boy) on
guitar and even older dude Neil Innes (former Rutle and Bonzo Dog Doo Dah
man) tinkling the ivories?
Against the staggering odds of age, disparate musical heritage and
performers' natural egomania, it's actually OK. More than that, Innes +
Boom + Hitchcock = a Yo La Tengo performance to cherish, to paraphrase a
YLT album. Songs like 'The Crying Of Lot G' and 'Tears Are In Your Eyes'
are graceful examples of what some Sonic Boom wind noises and an
understated Innes piano can add to already lovely tunes.
Mostly, this is a hushed affair, given that six people are trading
instruments around, that favours the gentle brushstroke moods of 'And Then
Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out'. But all the extra guitar power make
older songs like 'Stockholm Syndrome' a heady janglefest, allowing nominal
frontman Ira Kaplan to assault his own with impunity.
The visitors get their own spotlights too. The Rutles' 'Cheese And Onions'
and 'Mr Apollo' by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dahs gets Innes' back catalogue a
cheerful airing, with Hitchcock on Viv Stanshall impressions. Hitchcock,
meanwhile, revives the Soft Boys' 'I Wanna Destroy You' for a new
generation of ears. But the most unexpected thrill comes from Sonic, who
sings a mesmeric 'Transparent Radiation', once covered by Spacemen 3.
Naturally, though, it's the home side that steal the show. For all the
glory in their generous numbers tonight, Yo La are rarely more appealing
than when the three Tengos, Georgia Hubley, James McNew and Ira, are alone
- armed with nothing save downy-soft vocals and a backing tape - perform a
dance routine along to 'You Can Have It All'. Less remains more, then -
even when more is rather excellent.
-- Kitty Empire
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