Published Feb 20, 2011By now, most Yo La Tengo fans will have heard of the novelty surrounding their current tour. But for those who haven't, the long-running indie rock trio have introduced a "wheel of fortune," which randomly determines the first half of their set. The wheel consists of options such as sets based around the songs by James McNew's Dump solo project, ones derived by nothing more than songs that begin with the letter "S" or have a person's name in the title, and question and answer sessions, among others. Here in Vancouver the wheel landed on Part 1 of The Sounds of Science, their 2002 score for a series of undersea documentaries.
This under-the-radar album was probably on the bottom of most fans' lists for the randomly chosen set, and with good reason. The soundtrack is a moody and atmospheric work that probably works well alongside images of mysterious undersea creatures, though a jam-packed Rickshaw Theatre on a Saturday night was a little less receptive. As the band began the instrumental voyage, the crowd was mostly attentive, trying in earnest to go along with it, though as the set wore on, the audience became restless and chatter began to overtake the music, at least in the back half of the overcrowded theatre.
Yo La Tengo exited the stage after the set but quickly returned, hammering out a handful of covers they had recorded under their Condo Fucks alias. After the somewhat tedious beginning to the night, it delivered a much needed jolt back into the audience.
The band then played a more formal set of older tracks and fan favourites, including a heart-warming rendition of "Autumn Sweater" and a gripping "You Can Have It All," which both had the crowd back at full attention. Yo La Tengo ended the night off as quietly as it began, by sending the crowd into the night with a hushed cover of Daniel Johnston's "Speeding Motorcycle."