Feedback Ballet

Guitar Ballet

I guess I better post a sensible review of last night’s SY show just in case anyone feels that the previous nonsense was in any way a veiled comment on the performance.

The weeks preceding this show were a mixture of anticipation and puzzlement. Every opportunity to see Sonic Youth is to be relished (I’ve only seen them 5 times before) but it still felt like a strange move for SY to retread old ground, since they almost always base their live shows on their most recent LP. ‘Daydream Nation’ of course is not just any old ground and the band’s approach to live shows actually means that the songs on ‘Daydream’ have never had the live exposure you might have expected.

So given the quality of the LP this is a project that could hardly fail. The opening of ‘Teenage Riot’ and ‘Silver Rocket’ was quite simply awesome. The 3 guitar wielding Sonics conducting a remarkable feedback session at the end of ‘Riot’ which sonically was thrilling. But with some impressive almost balletic guitar waving, including one spell where Lee held his out over the crowd to allow it to be briefly played by audience members, it was also visually stunning.

After that they kept the momentum up provoking another teenage riot (aren’t SY audiences surprisingly young these days?) during an intense ‘Silver Rocket’.

Needless to say that sort of level couldn’t be maintained throughout. But they had a damn good try. Lee’s trio of songs were all astonishing, as were ‘Across The Breeze’.

Lee and Steve

If the normal format of an LP would not normally create an appropriate live finale, Daydream is an exception and ‘Trilogy’ all but matched the opening salvo. ‘The Wander’ sets things off and I’ve always loved ‘Hyperstation’. But the closing ‘Eliminator Jr’ is absolutely brutal causing more carnage in the moshpit and an entirely fitting way to close the main portion of the evening.

A couple of minor qualms. “The Sprawl” starts brilliantly but loses its way somewhat, dissipating some of the energy of the opening songs. And the playing of an LP entirely in sequence undoubtedly has its drawbacks, not the least of which is the loss of the element of surprise.

It’s interesting too that, for the most part (Lee’s the exception), the Youth were fairly business-like throughout the Daydream set. But when they play a five song ‘Rather Ripped’ set as the first encore (with the addition of Mark Ibold on (second) bass) they all seem to lighten up with Kim in particular skipping round the stage when freed from axe duties of any kind and Thurston suddenly becoming talkative between songs.

Kim and Thurston

Unfortunately my hope that the RR material would gain something in a live context proved slightly optimistic. Sure, ‘Incinerate’ and ‘Reena’ are every bit as great as you could hope for and ‘Pink Steam’ is terrific as well, but the performances of ‘Do You Believe In Rapture’ and ‘What A Waste’ don’t have me rushing to re-evaluate the half of the LP I was less keen on.

Things are rounded off in fine style with a final encore of ‘The World Looks Red’, and, despite the shredded hearing, a memorable evening is complete. Here’s one of Lee’s highlights from the original CD version of the LP.

Sonic Youth – Rain King (from ‘Daydream Nation’)

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