A one-off performance from one of the greatest indie rock bands of all time, Yo La Tengo graced Thalia Hall’s stage on Saturday with a career-spanning set that had something for the whole spectrum of YLT fans. It was clear the band was jonesing to play live. The show was equal parts masterful and entropic. Guitarist Ira Kaplan was especially captivating, at times performing a full-on exorcism on his instrument, at others teasing the audience by nearly smashing his guitar, just to catch it at the last second and let the feedback wash over the crowd.
To see YLT live is to witness three friends who together have mastered the craft of subtlety and dynamics. Their ability to silence an audience with their hypnotic trance on tracks like “She May, She Might”, then jolt them with the noisy intensity of a Urinal’s cover is something no other band could pull off. Seasoned fans know how much the band loves a cover, and their encore was action-packed with The Monkees’ “The Door Into Summer,” a song they performed at their very first gig in 1984, Georgia Hubley’s sentimental, lilting take on George McCrae’s “You Can Have it All,” and from their 2020 covers EP Sleepless Night, Ronnie Lane’s rambling folk classic “Role On Babe,” featuring Doug McCombs (Tortoise/Black Duck) on guitar.
The two hour set could have continued late into the morning, and the crowd would have eaten it up. The Chief Sentiment Officers of indie rock delivered once again.