Yo La Tengo at the Vic | Photos and live review
Yo La Tengo and Chicago have a history, a fact that bandleader Ira Kaplan alluded to several times during the group's nearly three-hour performance at the Vic on Friday night. Back in 1986, the city was a stop on one of the band's first national tours, and they would return throughout the ensuing decades with local groups like the Sea and Cake in tow. More recently, Chicago was the site of YLT's infamous reading of an entire Seinfeld episode during a show at the Metro.
The trio was a fixture in Wicker Park this past summer as they holed up in Soma Studios with John McEntire to record Fade, their latest album, which marks a return to the more subdued sound the band demonstrated on their 1997 release I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.
Singing in unison against the repetitive strums of "Ohm," the Hoboken, NJ ensemble embraced a stripped-down approach for the evening's first set, homing in on tracks from their newest LP. The group turned in acoustic renditions of tracks like "The Point of It" and "I'll Be Around," backed up by the gentle patter of Georgia Hubley on drums and the resolute pulse of bassist James McNew.
Hubley's hushed delivery rang out over the haunting drone of "Cornelia and Jane," while Kaplan's wavering timbre blended into a reworked version of "Sugarcube." The couple's alluring vocal harmonies proved to be the evening's common thread, connecting the delicate compositions that inhabited the first portion of the night to the more raucous tone of the latter half.
Heralding the start of the second set with the feedback-drenched chords of "Cherry Chapstick," Kaplan writhed across the stage coaxing dissonant harmonics from his guitar. The setlist was scattershot, ranging from the noisy squall of "Nothing to Hide" to the keyboard-driven instrumental antics of "Tired Hippo." The trio pulled the set together by concluding with an appropriately expansive take on "The Story of Yo La Tengo," a distortion-ridden cacophony grounded by Hubley and McNew's steady rhythmic contributions.
A pair of encores incorporated a variety of covers, including Neil Young's "Time Fades Away" and ZZ Top's "Gimme All Your Lovin'," which was dedicated to Chicago institutions like Thrill Jockey, Tortoise and Brokeback. Clearly pleased to be back in the birthplace of their latest record, Yo La Tengo delivered an impressive array of tunes and—despite a few shouted requests—resisted the urge to perform another episode of Seinfeld.