As a Sonic Youth fan for twenty-something years, I've become used to being confounded by the piercing anarchic tangents of their live shows. They're not a band to give the audience exactly what they're looking for, because they know what the audience needs. So it was kind of weird to hear people calling out their favorite songs from the SY catalog, as though that might influence what they play next. Who expects a best-of-SY show to happen, ever? These guys have always been about pushing forward, not reminiscing, and creating, rather than chasing, the zeitgeist.
At last Thursday's early 9:30 Club show, fans got what they probably never imagined from a Sonic Youth show - clarity. The show was straightforward and accessible, complete with two near-lullabys ("Lights Out" and "Or"), and audible lyrics. There wasn't a wrinkled brow in the room. Thurston even teased the crowd at one point, asking if we wanted it louder, faster--"Do you want total violence?", and then introduced the mellow, inspiring "Rapture."
Don't get me wrong. "Drunken Butterfly," "100%," and "Incinerate" all reminded us that Thurston Moore might be the greatest of guitar gods, who creates a tension that nobody--nobody else can approach. He still has great hair, and his six-foot-something silhouette has more presence and is more imposing than Lincoln's ghost. When he stands at the edge of the stage in the platonic ideal of a guitar stance, he's not a band member - he's a damn superhero.
No, the violence was still there. It was simply a violence that you could understand. Violence for pop fans.
These mp3s are not from the NPR stream, which you can listen to here. They're from another recording.
Sonic Youth (Live at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC)(mp3s):
Do You Believe in Rapture?
Buy Rather Ripped.
These were taken by my friend Randy: