Yo La Tengo / Rose Melberg Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, BC October 21
Published Oct 25, 2009Starting with 1986's Ride the Tiger, you've been able to count on an above average to good Yo La Tengo album every one to three years, and though it's probably not true that they're merely consistent rather than exceptionally good, there can be little doubt that they reached a creative plateau in 1997 with I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One. Yo La Tengo have poked fun at their own lack of commercial viability in the past (see the music video for "Sugarcube"), but in recent years have also increasingly flirted with a modicum of commercial success; they are now touring in support of Popular Songs, their latest and highest-charting album yet, and their seventh for "major indie" label Matador.
Opening the night softly was Vancouver via Sacramento, CA resident Rose Melberg. The singer-songwriter often doesn't get the credit she deserves around Vancouver — a talented, prolific performer with a body of work that includes 1990s twee pop legends Tiger Trap and the Softies, as well as solo albums, her latest being this year's Homemade Ship.
Yo La Tengo's performance began a little disappointingly. Guitarist/vocalist Ira Kaplan's singing was barely audible for the first few songs, and he scowled like a high-school principal while band-mates Georgia Hubley and James McNew solemnly plodded along. Happily, though, the band and audience warmed to one another after this short bout of awkwardness, and I Can Hear-era classics like "Stockholm Syndrome" were accompanied by standouts from the new album, such as the swaggering "Periodically Double or Triple." A good performance, but not much has changed over the years — Yo La Tengo remain a solid, dependable musical institution.