Lee Ranaldo / Piss Superstition / Runaround Kids – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds – 7th June 2012

With only 2 UK dates on offer MPT is forced to go solo south of the border for the first time in years in order to see Sonic Youth legend at the Brudenell Social in Leeds. The trip turns out to be well worthwhile.

It seems odd that it’s taken Lee so long to have some sort of solo songwriting career, but this year’s ‘Between The Times and the Tides’ turned out to be a blinding start. Yet there’s a slightly schizophrenic nature to the record mixing the rockier stuff which is reminiscent of Sonic Youth with more tuneful, easier going songs with plenty of acoustic guitars.

‘Fire Island’ is probably the song that best illustrates the divide on record with its fierce intro and outro sandwiching an almost country-ish middle section. But in person it’s an absolute beast – even the easy listening section.

Which gives a good representation of what the set was like. The range of the songs is narrowed somewhat – there’s no acoustic guitars – with the consequence that the quieter stuff is amped up more than a little bit. The all acoustic-on-record ‘Hammer Blows’ (so reminiscent of some of Thurston’s recent records) is electrified and is played with added freak-out mid section during which Lee brings out a bow to play his guitar.

So unquestionably everything’s meatier than on record. But surely that’s excusable if you’ve got a genuine guitar hero on stage? And it actually does the songs no disservice at all – in fact it seems to suit them all.

The set gets off to a cracking start with the two ‘singles’ to open up. ‘Off The Wall’ in particular is one of the real gems on the album and by using it so early I did fear that the set may lose momentum later on. But the quieter songs on record such as ‘Lost’ more than hold their own at the business end of the set.

The injection of a couple of covers later on, particularly an excellent spiky version of Talking Heads’ ‘Thank You for Sending Me An Angel’, doesn’t hurt either.

The only Sonic Youth song aired was Dirty-era B-side ‘Genetic’. It’s clearly a song dear to Lee’s heart as its omission from that record apparently caused a degree of internal friction. It’s interesting in this context though because it’s a more straightforward reading than the Youth would have done, but nevertheless great to hear.

All things considered the set’s fully worth the trip and night away from home. Hopefully Lee will be back in the UK before too long and will venture further north than Leeds.

Short of asking for One Direction to support Sonic Youth, you couldn’t have had two more different  support acts.

Openers Runaround Kids were a fairly straightforward rock proposition, not unlike Cloud Nothings (who had played the same venue the previous evening) without the sonic escapades. But they were enjoyable all the same and sounded like they possessed more than a few good tunes.

Piss Superstition on the other hand were two guys who delivered some formless electronic weirdness with no vocals. More challenging than Runaround Kids for sure but not something I managed to engage with at all. Despite the fact that on 2 or 3 occasions there was effectively a loud explosion on stage to ensure that everyone was still awake. It’s just too avant garde for me.

Finally a word about the venue. Before heading down the Brudenell seemed to have a good reputation and it was easy to see (and hear) why. Laid out in a diamond shape with a couple of (shallow) levels providing some elevation towards the back, it’s a good place to be able to see a band whilst the sound was pretty much spot on as well. I’d definitely be happy to go back at some stage in the future.

Setlist

1. Off The Wall  2. Angles  3. Shouts  4. Tomorrow Never Comes  5. Xtina As I Knew Her  6. Waiting on a Dream  7. Hammer Blows  8. Walk On  9. Thank You For Sending Me An Angel  10. Fire Island  11. Lost

Encore
12. Stranded  13. Genetic

Camera phone photos of the show (mainly from the front row but a couple from further back after I decided I wanted to hear more than just Lee’s guitar monitor!) here. Genuinely better than I expected.

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