WMCN runs through two nights of rock at First Avenue

By Geoffrey Stueven

A pair of concerts at First Avenue last weekend highlighted the difference between experience and relative inexperience, or maybe it was just an example of too much music for one weekend.
Whatever the case, Yo La Tango indisputably tore the roof off the place, nicely, on Saturday night. Anyone who has seen Sonic Youth in recent years knows that a band that is great from its inception can only be a powerhouse 20 years later (I’ll give The Rolling Stones the benefit of a doubt). The trio of Yo La Tango has mastered this thing we call music, and they were here to prove it to us.
Case in point: a new track, “The Story of Yo La Tango,” juxtaposes a piercing keyboard with a slow increase in tension and volume, and the only way to judge the song’s almost imperceptible progress toward absolute visceral insanity is by the extent to which it obscures the former noise. And when it reaches that peak, guitarist Ira Kaplan turns Jimi Hendrix and loses himself in the music.
The band has a reputation for extreme mellowness, and that side was certainly on display, but their more melancholy moments have only honed their understanding of the dynamics of quiet and loud, tension and release. There is something dangerous and alive in all of their music, and the title of their new I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass is not shocking, but rather the best summary of the band’s philosophy to date.
The following night, TV on the Radio packed the house, and couldn’t help but pale in comparison. For all their rock ‘n’ roll bravado, they tended toward the bombastic and overblown. Their new long-player Return to Cookie Mountain is full of creeping urban terror, and the long and deep bass lines brought that sensation to life on Sunday. But great as their albums are, the band still has a ways to go live. 20 years from now, if they make it that long, they’ll probably be dynamite.