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Review: Yo La Tengo plays an intimate and cozy show at W.O.W. Hall



Most times, a concert venue packed full of strangers doesn’t feel very comfortable or homey, but New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo played an acoustic show that made W.O.W. Hall feel as cozy as an autumn sweater on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

Yo La Tengo set up their gear on a large, decorative area rug and adorned the stage with more than 10 pieces of abstract artwork from various band members and friends, including a painting used as the album artwork to the band’s newest LP – Stuff Like That There, making the capacity of the concert hall feel like more of a laid-back living room than a venue.

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W.O.W. Hall is adorned with art by Yo La Tengo and their friends (Meerah Powell/Emerald) Photo credit: Meerah Powell

The 31-year-old band released Stuff Like That There, the group’s fourteenth studio album, in August of this year. The album, which filled most of the setlist for the band’s Eugene stop, contains covers of songs like The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love,” covers of Yo La Tengo’s own songs from previous releases and new originals. The LP also features the band’s original lead guitarist, Dave Schramm, who rejoined the band on their current tour.

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Lead guitarist Dave Schramm rejoins Yo La Tengo for their current tour (Meerah Powell/Emerald) Photo credit: Meerah Powell

For a band that has been around for so long and toured for so many years Yo La Tengo showed that they had mastered one aspect of performing extremely well: timeliness.

The show had no opening act, an uncommon occurrence but a great relief to many an audience member who would rather be spending the extra time saved at the end of the show in bed on a Tuesday night. Instead Yo La Tengo played two, roughly 10-song, sets with a brief intermission in between them.

With Yo La Tengo starting at 8:15 p.m. on the dot, surprised audience members of all ages, from middle-aged to older fans and college students to even toddlers, who quickly filled the venue from wall-to-wall to search for a good place to situate themselves.

The band’s two sets were filled with the sweet, romantic tunes that make them so incredibly loveable in the first place, though this time made infinitely more intimate in an acoustic setting.

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James McNew plays the upright bass and sings backing vocals during Yo La Tengo's two-set show (Meerah Powell/Emerald) Photo credit: Meerah Powell

James McNew’s upright bass added a slight jazz and art rock influence to songs like “Rickety” along with vocalist and percussionist Georgia Hubley’s use of brushes on her small and simple drum setup, while Schramm and Ira Kaplan, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, brought in elements of noise rock reminiscent of some of the group’s older releases with long, dissonant guitar interludes.

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Georgia Hubley sings and plays a small drum kit at the front of the stage (Meerah Powell/Emerald) Photo credit: Meerah Powell

Throughout the night the four-piece mixed a variety of genres and elements together to create an indescribably calming atmosphere. With the set’s acoustic nature, audience screams at the beginnings and endings of songs were often much louder than the music itself, but in the midst of songs with crowd members in bitter silence, the band was able to play so quietly at points that Kaplan was merely whispering into the mic, like in the band’s last song of their second set, “Our Way To Fall,” to further boost the already affectionate and close environment.

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Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Ira Kaplan goes in on a guitar solo (Meerah Powell/Emerald) Photo credit: Meerah Powell

After Yo La Tengo’s almost two-hour, two-set performance, the group exited the stage, though the crowd would not cease applause and foot stomping until the band returned for a short encore including older songs like “Andalucia” off of the band’s 1990 release Fakebook.

Overall, Yo La Tengo gave the Eugene crowd a needed week night break with a perfect amount of dreamy warmth before having to exit the comfort of W.O.W. Hall into a cold and stormy evening.

Listen to Stuff Like That There below:

Follow Meerah Powell on Twitter at @meerahpowell

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Meerah Powell

Meerah Powell