Last Night: Sonic Youth at House of Blues

Categories: Show Reviews

Sonic Youth
House of Blues
July 15, 2009

Better than: getting a good night's sleep.

SonicYouth.jpg

The Eternal may be the 16th album released by seminal noise rockers Sonic Youth, and members Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon may be in their fifties--but you'd never have thought either were true by the performance the couple, and the rest of the band, delivered to a rapt, reverent crowd last night at House of Blues.

Though the band did rely very heavily on the material on The Eternal, the band's first release on Matador Records since leaving Geffen, the band did play a handful of older gems. It's not exactly a secret that Sonic Youth's recent dalliances with its own classic Daydream Nation provided the inspiration for The Eternal, and hearing the older songs, like "Silver Rocket," mingled with the new ones, like "Sacred Trickster," it was clear that having arrived at some sort of "new-old" sound works for Sonic Youth.  

And, the new material translated well on stage with "Sacred Trickster" and "Walkin Blue" sounding pretty much like the songs do on the album. "Anti-Orgasm" and "Poison Arrow," however, sounded much better reworked for the band's live set. The high note of the performance came when the band launched into a sweeping rendition of "Antenna."

Like the new album, last night's gig shows that as the group has matured, it has learned when to drone on and on, and when to, well, not.

And, speaking of maturity, writing about Sonic Youth and not mentioning the whole age thing seems all but impossible. Especially because it's hard not to notice that the mostly silver-haired act can still play with more passion, vigor and conviction than bands half their age. The most remarkable thing about last night's show was that the band's performance never seemed contrived or forced--something that many younger bands fall prey to. Rather, every member of the band looked like they were having the time of their lives, and, overall, the band sounded in top form.

Honestly, though? The volume level in HOB did seem considerably less tinnitus-causing than I'd expected. No earplugs needed. The only complaint that I noted was that, from where we were standing for most of the night, Moore's vocals were considerably more muffled than Gordon's.

Regardless, as hot as it was yesterday, Moore wasn't bothered: "Summertime in Dallas is Heaven on Earth," Moore said during a lengthy mid-set banter session, eliciting moans, groans and chuckles from the crowd. "You sound like non-believers," he responded, pausing before saying, "Well, I like it."

Critic's Notebook
Random Note:
I'd heard that the last time Sonic Youth played at HOB, the crowd was pretty thin. But, last night, while the house wasn't packed, it was well-attended. Perhaps the momentary boost of cool status was brought on by the whole Juno soundtrack thing? Certainly didn't hurt the turnout...

By The Way: Allison Busch of opening act Awesome Color is a fantastic drummer. And it was kinda cool to see that ex-Pavement bassist Marc Ibold has officially joined Sonic Youth instead of just filling in on tours.



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