Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sonic Youth, Wiltern Theater, LA 09 Jan, 2010

First field trip of the '010 takes us into downtown LA, destination: The Wiltern Theater. Sonic Youth came into town to put the finishing touches on their tour for last year's 'The Eternal'. Lee Ranaldo's untimely wrist fracture sidelined the group, wiping out some shows & forcing make.up dates for others.

This, fortunately, was a make.up date, and the band showed no ill effects whatsoever. The one thing you can count on in a Sonic Youth show is forward motion...wherever they're currently at, that would be what the focus is on, (notable exception being some '07 shows to revisit 'Daydream Nation'), and tonight was a celebration of 'The Eternal'. Their newest record is informed by those 'Daydream Nation' shows, an attempt to revisit an album recorded by instruments they no longer possess, and also a move away from the old Mainstream, giving up the ghost of Geffen Records for uber.indie Matador, as well as working Pavement bassist Mark Ibold into the fold, allowing Kim Gordon to add more guitar to the proceedings.

They opened with the one.two punch of "No Way" and "Sacred Trickster" from the new album, then pulled out an exhilerating "Hey Joni", the first of three (!!) 'Daydream Nation' songs that they would offer. (The other two coming in the first encore). Back to 'The Eternal' for "Calming The Snake", with Kim Gordon leading the charge over squalling guitars.

I was basking in the sound of the Theater, easily the most complimentary mix I've ever heard on a Sonic Youth show, and not something said lightly...To capture the nuances of skronk and feedback, and, yes, melody, is truly capturing lightning in a bottle, and it's always a little miracle to me. Also made me realize that of the times i've seen them, this was the first indoor show, so that certainly makes a difference, but hats off to their crew & the theater...crispest mix on a noisy guitar show i've heard in awhile...

With the preliminaries out of the way, the band lit up "Anti.Orgasm" (above) finishing with a beautiful coda, and followed with a luminous take on "Walking Blue". The remainder of the main set mix and matched the rest of 'The Eternal', "Poison Arrow", "Thunderclap for Bobby Pyn", "Malibu Gas Station", "Antenna", a rousing "Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)", and "What We Know", ending with an amazing take on a surprising setpiece, "Massage The History". For days afterwards, i had Kim's strained coo and the guitar harmonics bouncing around in my head. The possibilities of the song really opened up live, and the haunting guitar lines bounced around the theater.

After a short break, they returned to blow the doors off the place with a double salvo from 'Daydream Nation', "The Sprawl" (above), and "'Cross The Breeze". Total annihilation.

Not content to leave it at that, they came back for a second encore, and finished the night with a harrowing take on "Death Valley 69", (below). Amazing show, and while peers have risen higher, and flamed out, regrouped and made millions, Sonic Youth continues to chug along in its own unique fashion...

(major thanks to Okeastron2008 & EdgeLover4Life for the video...)

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