Is That Enough? - By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret

Is That Enough?

Yo La Tengo/Belle & Sebastian Live Author: on July 14, 2013
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It had rained all morning, but as I bumped along, gazing out the window of the MBTA’s red line, the sun was splitting the clouds. Shielding my eyes from its gaze, I glanced down at the sheet of printer paper within my grasp – Yo La Tengo/Belle and Sebastian, it read, words deserving of a quick trip up to Boston for a night on the Harborwalk. It was a night for 90s indie rock stalwarts, both an ocean apart literally and in their cultural development, but forever together in time. One. distinctly freeform and intensely focused; the other, fancy-free and infectiously jovial. Both, though, are dedicated showstoppers. Both are into their twilight, though Yo La Tengo specifically are still going strong with this year’s quiet Fade, and neither is lacking in effort. As Murdoch put it, Belle and Sebastian are Robin to YLT’s Batman, so damn the ageism; positioned along the seaside next to Boston Harbor, the two acts began their wonderful game of hero and sidekick. It’s only fitting they started on a resounding note.

The Bank Of America Pavilion is located right next to the water, essentially an enormous tent erected in the spring to serve as a summer venue. It’s open air and there is nary a bad seat in the place; housing about five thousand people at its max, the venue is charming in its location and serene beauty. The sound system is impeccable, and while it lacks any jumbo-tron system for a venue of its size, the nimble video projectors just about do, as no one is ever really all that far from the action on stage. And even on a day that was otherwise damp and dreary, the crisp sea breeze kept the venue dry and helped cool the bake from the cityscape as the rain ceased and the heat rose. It didn’t hurt that I was able to witness a crisp sunset over the Boston skyline from harborside – the venue was gorgeous, deserving of the calm for which it was about to receive.
As I hopped off the Silver line (a glorified bus as opposed to a train) I trotted in quickly, hearing Yo La Tengo already playing one of Fade’s many standouts, “Stupid Things”, which echoed through the venue. Tickets checked, I zipped in to find the New Jersey trio clustered close in the middle of the stage as they transitioned into “Mr. Tough”, lacking its horns but none of its excitement. They followed with “Autumn Sweater”, in all its bassy glory, which resonated through the rafters, James McNew’s bass lines ripping me asunder. From the start of their set it was apparent that Yo La Tengo weren’t merely looking to jam out their new tunes hot on the heels of a new record – this was a widescreen observation of the band, one covering nearly every era and genre experiment. Culminating in a extended rendition of Electr-o-Pura’s exceptional closer “Blue Line Swinger”, which ended with Ira Kaplan on his knees, eviscerating, his fingers strumming animalistically, searching for reverb from his pedals. As the song finished Yo La Tengo waved and abruptly left the stage. In with a whisper and out with a roar – they were endlessly captivating.

As the various members of Belle and Sebastian then made their way onto the stage, the sound checked wrapped and the roadies dismissed, the crowd erupted to its feet. They began with “Judy is a Dickslap”, a infectiously groovy tune, off the little known single Legal Man It was the band’s first instrumental, and it set the mood up quite effectively: there will be old songs and yes, you will dance. “I’m a Cuckoo” followed and right away Murdoch was prancing about, imploring us all to join in with his bouncing.  The song’s effervescent guitar lines floated along the cool seabreeze as Stevie Jackson cut through to audience’s core. The hanging strings and booming horns injected pure adrenaline into our veins, and from the start everyone under that tent was red-blooded and reeling for more.


They proceeded with “Another Sunny Day” and “The Stars of Track and Field” , Murdoch pausing in-between to explain how as this was their first show in a while, they didn’t know what to play; much like YLT, they felt a little bit of everything would be fitting. A smattering from their career followed – “Expectations”, “To Be Myself Completely”, “Lord Anthony”, the absolutely transcendental “Piazza, New York Catcher”, and finally, a nightcap by the way of “I Don’t Love Anyone”, a Tigermilk cut the band hasn’t played since 2006.

Closing the show with another jolt of If You’re Feeling Sinister in “Judy and The Dream of Horses” and an encore of “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying”, Belle and Sebastian had left us elated. It was easy to see they were incredibly excited to be there; from the start Stuart was bantering with Stevie Jackson and Sara Martin, along with various audience members. They constantly babbled on about how excellent it was to be back in the city (as one would expect) but it was the personal non sequiturs from the band that resonated the most. From a personalized “hello” from Murdoch’s wife – a Massachusetts Native, presumably – and Jackson’s jabs at the Catholic Church, to bringing a slurry of audience members on stage to dance along with the band during the final few songs of the set. They may not have toured for a few years, but the set felt ageless, the band showing no loss of step. They are just as resilient, energetic and humble as ever. Both of these bands truly love their fans, and this show, on a damp Boston night, did nothing but reiterate that fact.

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