Yo La Tengo
Club Helsinki Hudson
March 26, 2016
Review and photos by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y., March 27, 2016) – Making its long-awaited debut at Club Helsinki Hudson, indie-rock trio Yo La Tengo didn’t disappoint in a lengthy evening displaying the well-seasoned group at its schizophrenic best.
Yo La Tengo is at least two bands in one, although one could probably make the case that it’s many more. But the group itself provided the neat and tidy shorthand, beginning the concert with a gentle, whispery, timeless acoustic set, followed by a riotous, loud, feedback-drenched set of vintage 1980s noise-rock.
The standing-room-only crowd was nearly hypnotized by the dreamy melodies and haunting vocals during the opening set, in which band members deftly traded off instruments, but mostly featuring Ira Kaplan on acoustic guitar, Georgia Hubley on drums played with brushes, and James McNew on double bass. All three musicians took turns on lead vocals, often harmonizing, with Kaplan’s softly singing like Paul Simon, McNew like Neil Young, and Hubley like, well, like Hubley herself.
The band dug deep into its catalog, as well as offering a few numbers from last year’s covers album, “Stuff Like That There,” including “Friday I’m in Love,” an obscure gem by the Cure.
After a short break, the group retook the stage and morphed from an acoustic folk-rock trio into a punk-fueled power trio. Hubley, who has continued to grow as a musician, on keyboards, guitar, and drums especially, exchanged her brushes for sticks and her abbreviated drum set to a full-sized trap kit. McNew took a few turns on electric guitar, but mostly held down the bottom on electric bass. And Kaplan metamorphosed from Paul Simon to a cross between Lou Reed and Thurston Moore – with more than a bit of Jimi Hendrix spicing up the mix – using his electric guitar like an engine to produce a sonic assault via feedback, reverberations, and exquisite noise.
For one night, Yo La Tengo transformed Hudson into Hoboken, where the group long ago laid roots and helped create and perpetuate a music and arts scene. It’s always been a dream of Yo La Tengo fans upstate and fans of Club Helsinki to have the two meet in this musical fantasy marriage. In what hopefully was only the first of what will be an ongoing relationship between the two, they both seemed to say, “I do.”