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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Yo La Tengo's loop-the-loops upstaged by Le Tigre's force

June 23, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

Yo La Tengo was the headliner at the sold-out Henry Fonda Theatre on Saturday, but the veteran indie-rock group's casually sensual sonic meandering was upstaged by the playful-yet-serious feminism of new wave-punk trio Le Tigre.

The crowd was definitely thicker for Le Tigre. Led by riot-grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna, whose band Bikini Kill was practically synonymous with that '90s feminist movement, the group mixed punk conviction and politics with new-wave sounds and shtick.

Brightly colored outfits, videos and '80s-style dancing delightfully lightened up the message as the infectiously goofy trio evoked acts from Devo to X-Ray Spex.

In lighthearted solidarity, Yo La Tengo singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan introduced as a "political" tune the new instrumental "Georgia Vs. Yo La Tengo," but his trio sounded vastly different. Kaplan, drummer Georgia Hubley and bassist James McNew offered about two hours' worth of mostly hushed, droning, Velvet Underground-esque selections, largely in the vein of material from the New Jersey band's current album, "Summer Sun," with some harder post-punk moments and a Latin-flavored tune to break up the eventual monotony.

Trading instruments and lead vocals, the players were sometimes abetted by members of the Clean, the New Zealand band that opened the show, in concocting their nearly insubstantial, violet-washed blanket of often compelling dream-pop, intercut with patches of intensely played, distortion-suffused guitar and keyboards.

It was all very moody and erotic, but by set's end the group had fallen into self-indulgence, jamming far too long on a one-joke song about nuclear war, leaving only the faithful to demand an encore.

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