Saturday, July 28

Live: Sonic Youth Perform Daydream Nation

Before Sonic Youth's performance last Friday, I had seen them only one time before, despite having listened to them for at least 15 years. That concert was in 1998 at Smith College in Northampton, MA. I really can't remember the setlist--it was a smattering of "hits" and feedback freakouts--but I do remember that the first track was perhaps the most ridiculous and intense buildup/release I've ever experienced live. I swear to this day that at the height of droning and feedback, drummer Steve Shelley's sticks literally disintegrated from his form of noise. That show was phenomenal, and set the bar really high.

Last week, Sonic Youth pulled off the entirety of Daydream Nation with such professionalism, such skill and mastery, that I spent most of the concert with my jaw on the floor. In my opinion, Kim Gordon is at her best on this record, and during default opener "Teen Age Riot" she laid it on thick. That track continued with the signature urgent and jittery riffs, but ended with a fantastic--and measured--feedback outro battle between Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, with a dramatic in-air sonic cutoff.

Next came "Silver Rocket." On the LP, this track clocks in at 3:47, with a trashy yet effective noisefest bridge that lasts about one minute. On Friday, the band launched into this section as usual but stretched almost to the point of no return--it was so over the top that a majority of the audience acted like that was it. But Moore and Shelley brought it all home and just killed the rest of the song. Again, mastery and skill in the context of musicality and emotion--they meant every note and sound they created.

Other highlights included "Cross the Breeze" which was so fing rad and bigger than the recorded version; "Hey Joni," one of the best Ranaldo tracks; and "Providence," which provided a nice breather. I half-thought that Mike Watt would show up, but watching Moore press play on an old cassette player--with probably the original answering machine tape--was awesome.

As expected, they ended with "The Trilogy" and simply blew everything away.

I felt so lucky to be in the presence of this seminal group. They truly are the elder statesmen of, god, I don't even know: former no wave/noise-rock pioneers/art rockers/post-punk indie rockhouse? (Not to mention all of the experimentation in-between their more "focused" work.) The members' ages range from 44 to 54--here's hoping that they keep it up for another 25 years.