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Since Yo La Tengo have not scheduled (at least as of yet) another tour date here in Philadelphia to support their forthcoming new album Fade, this special “Free at Noon” show at World Cafe Live would perhaps be my only opportunity to see them here in perhaps quite some time and so I jumped at the chance.
Free at Noon sets are typically short, giving even veteran bands only half an hour to forty-five minutes to perform whereas under more normal circumstances, they would play for far longer. Still, it was nice to hear slightly more lively and energetic versions of Fade material plus an inspired cover of The Spinners‘ immortal “I’ll Be Around”. Yo La Tengo always seem to cover a song written and recorded here in Philladelphia (and definitely something from the TSOP era) whenever they play here. For example, back in 2007, we saw them play a cover of The O’Jays “Love Train” in the sanctuary of the First Unitarian Church (a partial review in item #1 is here) and singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan introduced it as a “Philadelphia folk song,” so this just continued that tradition!
For today’s show, Yo La Tengo (who only got to play six songs or so) were paired with Bat for Lashes i.e. UK-based singer-songwriter Natasha Khan, who was backed only by one additional musician through the duration of her also short, half-hour set. I like what I’ve heard by Bat for Lashes on record, but live this was so much better. Khan is an artist whose vocal, compositional and instrumental (on piano and on one song, guitar) skills are best displayed in a stripped-down, live setting. I would say that her excellent set would make me more likely to listen to her albums and while I’d like to check them out, I think I’ll go back and listen to the live stream of this show to remind myself of how overwrought the records sound by comparison!
In any case, this was a great double bill that reminded me of other Free at Noons from years gone by like Evan Dando with The Dears back in 2006, though like in that case it’s rare that two artists of such quality share a Free at Noon bill.