Monday, December 7, 2009

Concert Review: Sonic Youth – live at Vicar Street 6th December 2009


Finally fulfilled my long-held desire to Sonic Youth live last night! (Shock horror! Concert review appears on time!) Had previously been to a Thurston Moore solo gig 2 years ago which was seriously good, so this had a fair bit to live up to.

Got a bit delayed on the way there so missed the support act. It was a seriously packed gig, no room to move, with an interesting mix of people – purple-haired weirdo – check! Guy who looked like Thurston Moore’s son – check! Incongruous person you wouldn’t expect to find there – check! (author Roddy Doyle)

The band came on and pretty much blew my socks off. The set was dominated by tracks from recent album The Eternal, which for the most part were improved upon live. The sound was seriously powerful, I suppose that’s what results from 3 people playing guitar at the same time. Kim Gordon was centre-stage, bawling out numbers with her usual ‘attitude’. There seems to be a distorted Dorian Gray thing going on with the band, Kim, Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley look a lot younger than the 50 years that they must be at this stage, but Lee Ranaldo looks almost a generation older with his grey, almost white hair. Thurston had the ‘rock star’ poses off to a tee, which he managed to pull off despite being about six and a half feet tall. Watching him playing guitar was never short of excitement, with Lee and Kim also ‘giving it loads’. Some of the Eternal album tracks which hadn’t previously grabbed me sounded superb live, especially Calming the Snake, which was very powerful with its giant riff and Kim’s chaotic vocals.

It wasn’t easy to discern much vocals with the guitar assault, and Lee in particular was hard to make out. Conversely, his 2 songs, What We Know and Walkin Blue were some of the stronger songs of the night. The rhythm section, Steve on drums and Mark Ibold looking like an overgrown schoolboy on bass gave sterling support. There were a few older tracks thrown in, mostly their older 80s material like Tom Violence.

They finished with Kim’s long drawn out Massage the History before returning to do a couple of songs off Daydream Nation and then finally ending with the nihilistic Death Valley ’69 which always disturbs and charms in equal measure.

It was great to see a band who, despite being around more than 25 years, have unmistakably got what it takes live. Watching and listening to a really noisy, loud, life-affirming bands is one of the most exhilarating musical experiences this music fan can have. Long may they continue to be both a creative and powerful force, on CD and on stage.