Anything wrong with acoustic shows ? Grant-Lee Phillips, Islington Assembly Hall and Yo La Tengo, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, October 2015

Two acoustic shows in a row…without knowing it in advance so no introduction chit chat and let’s go for the review !

  • Grant-Lee Phillips, Islington Assembly Hall, London, 15th October 2015
Grant-Lee Phillips, London, October 2015, cloudy

Remember Grant Lee Buffalo ? They were a American band from the 90’s which published excellent records in a style that could be described between the “Big Music” and folk. Being French, I remember for instance that their song “Fuzzy” had been an unexpected success. If my memory serves me well, they did big tours too either as opening act or as the main one. But that was a long time ago…and now their former leader Grant-Lee Philipps has a more modest career for which he is probably as happy as he was in the days of his previous band. He records regularly very nice records which, although not revolutionary, bring his great touch of tradition and mysticism. His 2006 covers LP “nineteeneighties” was particularly great and part of our best of that year.

Seeing him in the context of the Islington Assembly Hall was a bit weird, first as I was not expecting him to be on his own on stage with only the same acoustic guitar for the whole set but also because the concert hall had a real David Lynch atmosphere feel. This feeling was coming either with the piece of furniture available (the chairs!) but as well with a part of the audience whose crazy dances were reminding of the best parts of Twin Peaks… Apart from this strange context, that was a very strong and moving show that started slowly but surely with nice recent songs before putting the time machine in place for Grant-Lee to play the jewels written with his former band. This was the last date of this tour but the guy plays regularly so catch him if he were to play close to where you live.

Setlist here

  • Yo La Tengo, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, 20th October 2015

Yo La Tengo, Shepherd's Bush Empire, October 2015, theatre sign

Different fame context with Yo La Tengo as although we are talking about a band that has been playing for a long time now (first record in 1986), they have been staying in the spotlight ever since in the indie rock world. Here is a band I have seen many times as their mix of slow beautiful songs and powerful Velvetian ones has always been a delight. The last show I attended a couple of years ago as part of the Pitchfork Festival was particularly amazing for instance.

 

Yo La Tengo, Shepherd's Bush Empire, October 2015, band

They just published a new covers acoustic record called “Stuff Like That There” so I was quite excited to hear them play these songs live for the first time. The only surprise is that they were indeed in such an acoustic set-up on a stage surrounded by nice paintings…and calm. Do not get me wrong, the set was beautiful and there were very interesting renditions of cover songs such as for instance “Friday I’m In Love” by The Cure but to me what makes this band really great is the opposition they have between two styles. I was quite happy to get standup tickets as I am pretty sure being seated would have meant being lost with closed yes in a dreamy feeling…and struggling not to sleep! Looking forward then to seeing Yo La Tengo in a electric context

One of the most exciting moment of the show was when Gruff Rhys who was the opening act, singer of the Super Furry Animals, came on stage with the band to cover in a Yo La Tengo style one of his band’s best songs. The fan in me is always super excited to see such events happening in a concert and that was awesome.

Setlist here

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