Yo La Tengo, La Zona Rosa, September 29

Live Shots

Yo La Tengo

La Zona Rosa, September 29

Love was in the air, even as the freaks came marching down. Near the conclusion of a wildly uneven opening set, quixotic New Zealander Chris Knox of the Tall Dwarfs recruited a random guitarist (he introduced himself as Sean), quickly taught him a song, hand-picked some girl off the floor to sing, and watched the rest of the show from below, only rejoining them at the end. Somehow, the madness worked, and these unexpected guests wouldn't be the last ones to show up onstage. The chipper mood was set in spades for the band everyone loves to love, Hoboken, NJ's finest, Yo La Tengo. Eyes and ears were open when they unveiled the placid, gently unfurling "Night Falls on Hoboken," off the latest YLT album, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, a curious choice for a 17-minute opener. The multipurpose trio stuck with the smooth, sedate newer material early, and it wasn't until the usually reserved James McNew stepped up to the mike for the tart "Stockholm Syndrome" that the gushing became audible. That paved the way for a blazing run through screechers old and new, from the tracer-inducing "From a Motel 6" to "Cherry Chapstick," which found Ira Kaplan thrashing back and forth, wrestling with a squealing wildebeest of a guitar. YLT found this the appropriate time to shepherd onto the stage the inimitable Jad Fair, a newfound local, who joined the group for a drawl about a "snake charmer's tattooed wife" and "dog-faced contortionist son" off their 1998 collaboration Strange But True. Then things started to get weird. After a fiery version of one-hit wonder Ian Whitcomb's 1965 blues burner "You Turn Me On," Kaplan, McNew, and drummer Georgia Hubley stepped up to the mike for the bubbly "You Can Have it All," which found the trio twirling around 'N Sync, the bulky McNew gettin' jiggy with a crowd-pleasing impromptu hula dance. "Let's turn up our amps!" screamed Kaplan on "New Day Coming," and they weren't any quieter on the epic "Deeper Into Movies," an Electr-O puree of white-hot cinders and compounding vocal harmonies. The encore yielded a Bob Dylan cover, "I Threw It All Away," dedicated to Doug Sahm, no less, and a return engagement with Knox, who yipped and yelped his way through two fuzz-encrusted numbers, including a Tall Dwarfs tune. And just when it seemed the entire cast of this two-hour, thirty-plus-minute production had been credited, up jumps Daniel Johnston during the second encore for a raucous rendition of "Speeding Motorcycle" that had the entire crowd singing along. Daniel Johnston? Why not? Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo.

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