Sonic Youth: Live Last Night
By David Malitz
Over the past few years it's become en vogue for rock bands to perform a "classic" album from start to finish. Sonic Youth has taken part in this phenomenon ("Daydream Nation" a couple years ago) but has spent most of the past decade giving the same treatment to its new albums, going on the road shortly after the release of each one and performing it nearly in its entirety, if not necessarily chronologically.
"The Eternal," the 16th full length from New York's eternally cool alt-rock icons, isn't a classic compared to other albums in the band's mighty discography (please join our ranking discussion) but it's still as fine a current example as you'll find of the majestic power of the electric guitar. And so like "The Eternal," Monday night's show at a sold-out 9:30 club may not have been one for the ages but it was still Sonic Youth doing what Sonic Youth does best, and still does better than most of the bands it spawned.
(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)
There wasn't much enthusiasm or interaction coming from the stage -- Thurston Moore was positively reserved, save the occasional guitar god pose, and there weren't even many ridiculous dances from Kim Gordon. The band soldiered through the new material in workmanlike fashion, but it never robbed the songs of their energy.
New ones such as "Antenna" and "Leaky Lifeboat" particularly surged with a sense of purpose. Guitarists Moore and Lee Ranaldo made it look and sound almost too easy up there, but that's what happens when you've been doing it for nearly 30 years. Even the friskiest of the new songs, "Sacred Trickster" and "Anti-Orgasm" only threatened to really take off, stopping just short of full-on throttling.
The "oldies" portion of the set was mostly devoted to 1988's "Daydream Nation." On "Silver Rocket," "The Sprawl" and "Cross the Breeze" the band had no problem filling the club with screaming guitars and driving rhythms. But it was "Making the Nature Scene" from 1983's "Confusion Is Sex" that was the most vital performance of the night. Bassist Mark Ibold (ex-Pavement) picked up a guitar and attacked it with a drumstick, as did Ranaldo, while Gordon shrieked over the din her bandmates created. Sonic Youth is well past the point of needing to prove they can still let loose in such a manner, but it's nice to know they still can when they want to.
By David Malitz |
July 7, 2009; 5:02 PM ET
Live Last Night
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