Yo La Tengo is 22 years and 12 albums into a career that's seen the rise and fall of three, perhaps four waves of indie rockers. But the band that played Avalon Thursday was no dinosaur limping along on past glories. Whether it was indulging in the squall and drone of guitar noise or the hushed intimacy of brushed drums, Yo La Tengo showed the importance of steadfastly believing in what it does.
As befits a band whose latest album is titled (partially) ``I Am Not Afraid of You . . .," there was a playfulness that suffused a number of the songs. With a horn section and jaunty keyboards, ``Mr. Tough" sounded like a frisky Steely Dan singing early Springsteen with a soul falsetto. Guitarist Ira Kaplan moved to organ for ``I Should Have Known Better," complete with psychedelic co-vocals with bassist James McNew.
Even so, there was a serenity that seemed to underlie most of the performance. It was easy enough in songs like ``I Feel Like Going Home," in which drummer Georgia Hubley's vocals barely rose above a whisper. But even the driving rhythm and ``Eight Miles High"-style 12-string that fueled ``The Race Is on Again" were played with a light touch.
On the band's longer, louder noise jams, the same effect was achieved through nearly hypnotic repetition. McNew's clipped, rubbery bass line on ``Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" consisted of the same unchanging six-note figure maintained for 10 minutes, while ``Our Way to Fall" layered droning guitar on top of an unresolved drumbeat.
But Yo La Tengo could be sharp and aggressive when it wanted to be. The snarl in Kaplan's voice galvanized ``Big Day Coming," and Hubley's drums snapped hard on ``Today Is the Day." And when Kaplan attacked Neil Young's ``Time Fades Away" (one of three encores) so intensely that he broke a string right at the start, the band simply played through.