- Published on Monday, 06 July 2009 17:59
words and photos by Andy Pareti
Please scroll down for photos
The Electric Factory throbbed and churned like a Fritz Lang combustion engine on Thursday night for Sonic Youth’s thrashing noise rock. Converted from an actual electric factory, the massive building combines the usual mid-sized venue elements (show posters and bars with pretty ladies) with a clanging industrial feel complete with coil and plug-shaped white boards onto which the concert video projects. It was the perfect setting for the American underground veterans, whose epic, double-encore set was wrought with perfectly executed disarray.
Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon and the rest of the indie legends took the stage and immediately sprang into “Catholic Block”, off their seminal 1987 album Sister. From there, though, the set became an almost exclusive showcase of SY’s latest concoction, this year’s The Eternal. “No Way”, “What We Know”, and “Antenna” were all included, with occasional historical stopgaps along the way. One of these was “Nevermind (What Was It Anway)”, third cut off the oft-forgotten 2000 album NYC Ghosts & Flowers, and a song that Moore led into real rock territory, doubling over with pursed Mick Jagger lips while his guitar not-so-gently wept (more like howled).
Gordon, meanwhile, kind of did whatever the hell she wanted – she opened the set on bass alongside former Pavement member Mark Ibold before giving exclusive rhythmic duties to him. She also sang, strummed and scratched the hell out of her guitar and generally glided around her microphone in a blissful, shoegaze daze. “Come on baby, turn me on now/It will make you feel so good now” she sang on “Malibu Gas Station” like a half-comatose, desperate lover. Moore’s voice, meanwhile, bobbed back in forth between a lower-register Tom Verlaine (“Anti-Orgasm”) and a terse, monotonic Lou Reed (“Poison Arrow”).
After thoroughly perfecting The Eternal, the band returned for two encores that treated the crowd to some absolute gems off the band’s greatest album, 1988’s Daydream Nation. First was the dissonant “The Sprawl”, than the rushing epic “’Cross the Breeze”. The latter’s full-throttle mindfuck guitar orgy was absolutely the night’s highlight, but the band managed to end their second encore with just as much of a high note - Daydream’s second song and able-bodied barnburner, “Silver Rocket”.
After nearly thirty years, Sonic Youth are still living up to their name. Husband-and-wife duo Moore and Gordon looked as youthful and exuberant as ever, Moore with his mop top and puckered face and Gordon with her sparkling silver one-piece (looking last night a bit like a slightly-older Emily Haines). The band, in fact, is their name personified – their music does not age like you and I do. It remains green, it stays youthful. That was proven by the scores of young teens who were probably being rocked to sleep in cradles when Goo was circulating college campuses. But you can’t hear a wrinkle, and songs don’t get arthritis. The kids were moving their feet and singing along to songs as old as they were, and for an hour and a half everyone inside the Electric Factory was the same, youthful age.