Saturday, December 22, 2007

Yo La Tengo Wraps Up 8 Nights of Hanukkah

Maybe it's taken me a week to recover from the Dec. 11th Yo La Tengo show at Maxwell's, the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, and of the Hoboken band's eight-night run at the club. It's a great tradition and a great idea: each show begins with a different opening act, followed by a set by a comedian, followed by a full set from Yo La Tengo, plus some very special guests (more about that later). In addition, YLT designates a different charity (or two) to receive the proceeds from the night's ticket sales.

Though YLT has been doing these multiple Hanukkah shows for several years, this is the first year I've actually thought about the event enough in advance to snag a ticket before all the shows sold out (I bought mine at least a month before the show). It's probably been at least a decade since I've seen Yo La Tengo in concert (and it was probably at Maxwell's), and I wasn't an unabashed fan. Some of the more experimental, free-form, guitar-noise pieces grated on me, so I usually passed on seeing the band when they came around.

Their Dec. 11th was very enjoyable, though, and while it did have its moments of discordant noise, the band played a number of tunes from all phases of its career, from soft acoustic tunes to straight-ahead rockers like their cover of "Eight Day Weekend."

The young Columbus, Ohio band Times New Viking opened the show, followed by comedian David Cross recreating his "Ask a Rabbi" routine. Then came YLT. Reading Ira Kaplan's diary of the previous shows, I was marveling at some of the special guests the band had managed to get to come to the shows to perform: Redd Kross (who have a fun podcast; more about that in a later post), Alex Chilton, and The New Pornographers. I would have loved to see the latter, but I was completely satisfied with the eighth night's guest: none other than Howard Kaylan, a.k.a. Eddie of Flo & Eddie and The Turtles.

Kaylan popped up on stage to sing harmony vocals on the latter part of YLT's first encore, a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart," and then did some great rock and pop tunes, starting with The Turtles' hit "You Baby" and continuing with some Turtles and non-Turtles songs, including "She'd Rather Be with Me."

It was a great show in all, and a Yo La Tengo Hanukkah concert (at least one each year) is going to be part of my holiday season from now on.

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