August 13, 2002

This is the extent of what I wrote to my pals about the SY show. I didn't actually get more than like two hours' sleep last night, and I've been running on a lethal "not enuf sleep"/"too much caffeine" cocktail lately, so you're not gonna get me at my creative peak right now. At any rate:

The Sonic Youth show [Sunday]... wow. It embarasses me to say anything too complimentary, seeing as my concert reviews as of late have all had a feel of "THAT ROCKED!" to 'em (and dammit, it's true -- it's just been an exemplary year for music).

The heat was brutal, and it took a band as mighty as Sonic Youth to drag me out to one of the things I hate most, the Free Outdoor Festival (crowds, rudeness, long lines to get into the concert area, concessions with markups of 200%). But when they finally came on, I relaxed a little.

Sonic Youth are SO tight right now! Moore/Ranaldo have always had guitar chemistry, but now it's as symbiotic and artful as Verlaine/Lloyd's. The difference, I guess, is that even though they were credited as both playing lead, Verlaine and Lloyd were big on delineating "solos" and "rhythm parts" -- and since Sonic Youth has Jim O' Rourke to help out with guitar stuff, O' Rourke can do the rhythm while Moore and Ranaldo can build one big, magical lead part. I couldn't hear Kim's bass that well, but her voice sounded fantastic. She's going for those high notes, and she's taking 'em! This is the most control she's ever had over her voice -- she can use "gutturality" as an effect instead of a gimmick, because she knows how to use it, let it go, and bring it back again. And good old Steve Shelley... the underrated, fabulous Steve Shelley... he's one of the best drummers punk rock has ever had. If Kim's bass is the rhythmic anchor, Steve's drumming is the monster tide with an eye on ripping the boat from the dock and hurtling it out to the far corners of the world. And yet, it's very precise and methodical, and never showy.

Damn good set. I believe this was the only New York stop on their tour, and it's easy to see that they don't take New York gigs lightly. Last week, Kim Chi of the Original Sinners explained to me that her band was nervous about playing New York -- it's a make-or-break kinda gig. I guess a lot of bands go through that, even Sonic Youth, who've been around for 20 years and who are actually FROM New York. They ARE New York, like the Velvet Underground were New York. You have no idea how many people came out for this show.