A mere five days into the New Year and the Valley of the Sun may already have been treated to the concert of the year. It is incredible that the legendary Sonic Youth is STILL this good!
I had an opportunity to see these guys in Denver at the Ogden Theatre July 31 of last year. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed, so by the time I arrived at the venue the band was wrapping up the last song of the first set. I did get to see a total of 4 1/2 songs, and in even that short of a time frame I was blown away.
Therefore, the opportunity to see them again on this tour was very important to me. I wanted to experience the entire concert. I knew this would be a special show, and as usual Sonic Youth did not disappoint!
This is a band I grew up with, a band I can remember listening to during their heyday as one of the prime artists on SST Records, a band I can remember being the co-winner of Flipside magazine’s readers poll for Album of the Year with their release of Sister in 1987 (the other winner was Big Black with Songs About ____ing).
At 9:04pm the legends strode onstage to well-deserved enthusiastic applause. Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo continue to alternate on lead guitar and vocals, Kim Gordon has added the guitar to her duties of bass and vocals, Steve Shelley assumed his rightful position behind the drum kit, and the newest full-time member of the band as of 2009, Mark Ibold of Pavement fame, is the band’s bassist.
Sonic Youth led off with track one, Sacred Trickster, from their 2009 release The Eternal. My personal favorite from that album, astonishingly their 15th studio release, the song is classic Sonic Youth. Not many bands in music history have ever been able to make loud, powerful, abrasive music sound so beautiful and contain so many pop-hooks. The track leads off The Eternal very well and was a perfect commencement to the evening’s festivities.
Nearly every track from the band’s latest release was played, and every song sounded outstanding. The precision of this band is incredible. Hearing five musicians present that kind of power in such a tight manner is a wonder to behold, and a sheer pleasure to experience.
At one point of the show Thurston Moore displayed the sense of humor he is well-known for, when he received of all things a high school lettermen jacket from a fan. The jacket just so happened to represent the high school Moore graduated from, Bethel High School in Connecticut, and he proceeded to delight the crowd with a tale of how when he was a senior a female freshman student caught the eye of all the males on campus. That student turned out to be none other than a young Meg Ryan. Her name back then was Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. What a great little intermission during the show! Appropriately enough, the band launched into Anti-Orgasm, track number two from The Eternal, next.
The band treated the old-school veterans to a couple vintage tracks during the first set, including the intense Silver Rocket from their watershed masterpiece Daydream Nation, and a surprising offering of Schizophrenia, the lead track from Sister. Massage the History, the final song on The Eternal, closed out a phenomenal first set, complete with Kim Gordon’s stunning, tranquil delivery on vocals.
The crowd was treated to a couple of two-song encores, the first of which featured two more Daydream Nation tracks. The Sprawl includes a first verse that features text from the novel The Stars at Noon by Denis Johnson. My second favorite track on Daydream Nation, this song contains one of the band’s best guitar grooves and a chorus that just sticks in your head. ‘Cross the Breeze with its incendiary opening followed. The track is Sonic Youth at its punk best, complete with lyrics such as “I wanna know, should I stay or go? – I took a look into your hate – It made me feel very up to date.” Both songs were once again delivered by Gordon on vocals.
Sonic Youth finished up with one more encore, then left the stage for the final time right at 11:00pm. One hour and 45 minutes of incredible music. I am blown away by the fact a band with two members in their late forties and three in their mid-to-late fifties can deliver a show this good, this powerful and this loud! Remember folks, this is a band Kurt Cobain practically idolized, a band that headlined Lollapalooza in 1995. That is some serious credibility. Sonic Youth are considered one of the godfathers of alternative rock for good reason. Those of us at the Marquee Theatre on this evening had another opportunity to see that proof live.
If the rest of 2010 is this good in respect to live music, we are in for one heck of a great year!