Yo La Tengo practically qualify as a musical institution, with the band having survived 30 years in the music business and almost 20 years with this current lineup. The New Jersey noise-pop trio made their Sydney Opera House debut on Thursday, playing a long concert that was broken down into two sets. The quiet and loud show bewitched people and left them joyful after witnessing some layered, indie prog sounds that were like being hit in the face with a full rainbow of colour.

The songs were predominantly drawn from their most recent album, Fade, but they did delve into their back catalogue, going as far back as the Painful release. The quiet part saw the band in acoustic mode and opening with the melodic pop song ‘Ohm’. This was filled with acoustic guitars by Ira Kaplan and James McNew, which somehow managed to sound both discordant and cohesive at the same time. The start to ‘Satellite’ was drawn out for full effect as Georgia Hubley took lead vocals for a psychedelic party where it sounded like Tame Impala were invited.

The first part of the evening was filled with some sublime tunes by these multi-instrumentalists. ‘Saturday’ had some darker overtones and the mood definitely shifted during this one. ‘Nothing To Hide’, meanwhile, was like a knowing and wistful lullaby (or something you could finish a concert with, because then the audience could go home and contemplate it).

The three joked about their choice of costumes with Kaplan saying he was wearing his “finest ripped jeans” while McNew had bought a brand new shirt. There wasn’t much banter this evening and this little segue of silliness didn’t detract from the emotional hurt and whisper of this first lot of songs. They endured the acoustic treatment very well, as the lyrics are clever and witty enough to hold their own in a quieter space.

For the loud section the group got back to the basics of being a rock band and doing what they’ve done many times before. It was here that the songs took on another life, as more and more textures, layers and flourishes were combined to reveal an intricate and often epic wall of sound. ‘Moby Octopad’ was soaring and joyful, while ‘Little Eyes’ was enjoyed by the more casual fans in attendance.

Dinosaur Jr. was a band that sprung to mind during ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ with its rocking sound and distorted guitars sounding just like one of J Mascis’ creations. The band would perform ‘Ohm’ a second time but this was nothing like the first rendition, with the tight group playing a protracted version that swung around like a grandiose mess of sound and static. In short, it was glorious.

Yo La Tengo had entertained the Sydney Opera House crowd with around two hours of choices from their melody-filled discography. Although there were a couple of songs that shared a similar sound, for the most part the music was detailed, varied and busy, sometimes emotional and at other times toe-tapping but always enjoyable. The band’s name is actually Spanish for “I have it” and in reality, this mature trio know that they are just that. The final concert from their Australian tour showed that these musicians still have an undeniable “it” or endearing curiosity factor to offer fans.

Originally published on 17 March 2014 at the following website:

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