Just as the random turn of fortune’s wheel can be seen to determine life, so too was New Jersey trio Yo La Tengo’s Royal Festival Hall performance decided by a spinning wheel. With the show’s premise ‘Reinventing the Wheel’, the content of the band’s first set was decided by the spin of an onstage ‘wheel of fortune’ style wheel, leaving to fate the chance for fans to hear rare and unreleased material. As it happened, fate decided that the band should play a set of garage pop covers, under the alias ‘Condo Fucks’

With a catalogue of 12 albums across 27 years, it might seem odd for this band to dedicate half a concert to cover material. This said, the performance evinced the band’s unwillingness to conform to the expected – an attribute that has both won them a strong cult fan base and prevented mainstream success. Though swamped by the huge stage and even bigger hall, the trio exploded through a set of (mostly obscure) covers. So infectious was their near-relentless energy that they quickly overcame muddy sound and the audience’s potential unfamiliarity with the material (I, in fact, only recognized one of the songs: The Troggs’ ‘Girl Like You’).

It was during their second set however, that Yo La Tengo truly excelled. In a similar way to the age-old cliché of soundmen deliberately making a support band’s sound bad in order to improve the headliner’s set, YLT’s own material was a great improvement. Having assumed a newfound intensity, confidence and improved sound, their diverse second set was more than worth the wait. From the outset, the second set appeared more polished and well-rounded; it was difficult not to be impressed by the astoundingly tight rhythm section, proficient musicianship and Kaplan’s infamous uncompromising guitar leads (that bordered, but never crossed, masturbatory). The noodling and extended outros, at times excessive, were helped no end by the seated venue. The auditorium presented an intimacy that perfectly lent itself to Yo La Tengo’s more subtle offerings – it was these quieter songs that truly confirmed their mastery of indie pop.

To categorise yourself a fan of Yo la Tengo is a risky business. Having released such a mass of wide-ranging material, traversing countless genres and styles, requires a great deal of patience and perseverance. Yet ultimately it was this variety and diversity of material that helped produce such a remarkable performance.