Yo La Tengo began their set of their 2021 Hanukkah run with a cover of Russ Ballard/Ace Frehley single "Back in the New York Groove," reworked as "Back in the New York Jews." They've done it before, but it felt extra appropriate this year as we all try to settle back into normalcy after two years of Covid. "We're thrilled to be back," Ira Kaplan told the crowd. "Well, a little terrified but mostly thrilled."

This marks the 20th anniversary of these Hanukkah residencies, which began at Maxwell's in NJ, and Night 1 served as a bit of a in-person redo of their 2020 Hanukkah livestream which they did in lieu of actual shows and featured singer-songwriter and old friend Amy Rigby and humorist and author David Sedaris. "If you watched our little TV show from last year, we had Amy and David on that," Ira Kaplan told the crowd. "One of the hardest parts of doing that show was, we had a little production meeting and we thought it would sound weird if the four people who were watching clapped. So we decided not to clap when songs and stories ended, and it turned out to be really hard. We wanted Amy and David to come back so we could clap for them."

There was no shortage of applause on this festive night, and Yo La Tengo were in good spirits, playing a set that hit on all their bases: trad indie rock, folk rock, hushed ambience and noise jam workouts. For the latter, they brought out Steve Gunn for an extended "I Heard You Looking" that stretched well over 10 minutes and closed out the main set. The other guest during their performance was horn player CJ Camerieri who sat in with them on the second half of the set, including "Shadows," "Beanbag Chair," their Hanukkah song "Eight Candles" and a cover of Len Barry's "1-2-3."

There was no surprise guest in the encore as there often is, but they did bring out Rigby and Camerieri to perform a cover of Amy's old band Last Roundup's "At the Well" before saluting Jewish songwriter Lou Reed -- maybe you've heard of him -- for a trio of Velvet Underground covers, and closing the night with a cover of Heatwave's "Always and Forever" with WFMU's DJ Time Traveler on lead vocals. Check out the setlist, via Jesse Jarnow's Frank & Earthy blog, below.

As for the rest of Night 1, Rigby was a real delight with a set of songs that played out like short stories, including the night she danced with Joey Ramone, how she and Wreckless Eric met and fell in love, to having neighbors move in during Covid. “I never thought I’d see this many people in one room again."

David Sedaris, who made his name in the '90s recounting holiday stories, read fake Yelp reviews for Christmas before hitting the crowd with a series of filthy jokes that he had "collected" over the years that felt very old school but also very David Sedaris.

Meanwhile at the merch table, they had the Night 1 mix CD which was made by Sharon Van Etten and included songs by Low, Cate Le Bon, Land of Talk, Kevin Ayers, Bill Fay, Helado Negro and more. There were also YLT Hanukkah t-shirts (one a riff on the 1978 KISS solo albums that, though YLT covered Ace Frehley during the show, was clearly modeled on Paul Stanley, and the other a riff on Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup painting), and this year's poster which is an homage to Vilgot Sjöman's 1967 film, I Am Curious Yellow.

Proceeds from Night 1 went to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Check out a few phone pics from Night 1 below.

Ira joked that Yo La Tengo are in a "pissing match" with Billy Joel as to who can have the most sold-out shows, noting that tickets are still available for Monday's Night 2 show. The remainder of the run is currently sold out, but in years past they have released more tickets during the week so it's worth checking the ticket page periodically if you're still wanting to go. We made some guesses as to who the rest of the week's surprise openers might be.

You can get Yo La Tengo albums on vinyl in the BV shop.

SETLIST: Yo La Tengo @ Bowery Ballroom 11/28/2021 (Hanukkah Night 1)
Back in the New York Groove (KISS) (sung “Back With the New York Jews”)
Today Is The Day (fast)
For You Too
Let’s Do It Wrong (acoustic)
Shadows (with CJ Camerieri on French horn & trumpet)
Beanbag Chair (with CJC)
Eight Candles (Sam Elwitt) (with CJC & Kevin Micka on drums)
Walking Away From You (with CJC)
1-2-3 (Len Barry) (with CJC)
Before We Run (with CJC)
Sudden Organ
Artificial Heart
I Heard You Looking (with Steve Gunn on guitar)

At the Well (Last Roundup) (with CJC & Amy Rigby on guitar/vocals)
She’s My Best Friend (Velvet Underground)
It’s All Right (The Way That You Live) (Velvet Underground)
I Heard Her Call My Name (Velvet Underground)
Always and Forever (Heatwave) (with DJ Time Traveler on vocals)

[ If reposting, kindly credit Frank & Earthy: http://www.jessejarnow.com/category/ylt / @bourgwick ]

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