Sonic Youth | 07.31 | Denver
Sonic Youth :: 07.31.09 :: Ogden Theatre :: Denver, CO
I wasn’t expecting “Stereo Sanctity” as the opener, but it really worked, Moore establishing his unmistakable six-string howl immediately, a musical presence that is simply unparalleled. The last time I’d seen Sonic Youth had been an almost somber experience. They played Daydream Nation in its entirety, and the landmark album confined them like a straightjacket, while the encore of the new Rather Ripped material was clearly what their hearts were into. Thus, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that they played all but one song from the brand new album, The Eternal (released June 9, 2009 by Matador Records), and that the band was explosive compared with the nostalgia trip I’d witnessed two years ago.
Apart from the new stuff, the obvious highlights were the liberated Daydream tracks (the two albums covered all but two songs of the set). “Hey Joni” was perfectly executed geekpop, and “Silver Rocket” was half ’80s hardcore, half shoegaze progenitor, Thurston & Co. taking their time with the occasionally-rhythmic noise jam, then slamming the song home con brio. And after a picturesque take on the elegant “Massage The History” ended the set proper, we got an absolutely unbeatable combo: “The Sprawl,” sounding as modern and fresh as any Pitchfork darling of today, and “‘Cross The Breeze,” the “Stairway To Heaven” of indie rock, frightening in its precision and passion. With the pristine sound in the Ogden, you could hear jaws drop.
The only lull in the entire show was “Walkin’ Blue,” which sucked a little energy out of the room following “Orgasm,” but just-as-ballady “Antenna” flowed naturally out of “Rocket,” and “What We Know” made a pop-perfect second encore until the avant-growl of “Death Valley ’69,” complete with a Moore/Lee Ranaldo guitar fencing match, reminded us with authority how prescient this band was even in 1984. They were innovators; this is incontestable. Judging by this show, they still are, pushing and/or ignoring boundaries, evolving their songs night after night, bringing scenes together, refining their songcraft, and retaining their inimitable essence.
Sonic Youth tour dates available here.
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