Live Music + Gig Reviews

Sonic Youth @ Roundhouse, London

1 September 2007

Of all the Don’t Look Back Series’ shows, the prospect of Sonic Youth recreating Daydream Nation seemed almost too good to be true. This was the show. An indie kid’s wet dream (yes even above Slint and Spiderland), and something on this writer’s list of things to do before he dies peacefully of natural causes.

Walking around the concourse of Camden’s Roundhouse made you wonder if this was really an appropriate setting for such a celebration. Its barbecue fixture in the large terrace, first class style lounge area and all round gastro feel was leagues away from the origins and scene Daydream Nation first manifested in the autumn of 1988.

Thurston Moore was also wary of this, recounting onstage an often told story of how Joey Ramone once smuggled Joe Strummer through the Roundhouse’s dressing room window because he was too skint to buy a ticket to watch The Ramones. “The window’s fucking gone man! How times change.”

They certainly do.

Still, the enduring appeal of Daydream Nation is mirrored by the existence of Sonic Youth. They never looked back after that moment, and indeed in their creative process, tend rarely to. At that stage in their career it was their sixth album which pricked the ears of Geffen. Since then every couple of years a Sonic Youth studio album has regularly surfaced supplemented by a tour for that album.

This is why tonight was more than special. Thurston’s casual strum into Teenage Riot, the urgent punk rock thrash of Silver Rocket and the guitar waterfall of The Sprawl were an astonishing reintroduction. Barely a quarter of an hour into the set and amp stacks had been shoulder charged, fret boards lashed with guitar straps, massaged and pushed into lots of sadistic looking guitar sex positions (you had to see it to believe it).

A silhouette of Gerhard Richter’s Kerze painting, which adorned the original album sleeve, towered behind the band, shifting colour and texture as the navigation through the many mindsets and moods of Daydream embraced the venue.

The centrepiece of the album formed by Hey Joni, the leftfield Providence and the midnight swim feel of Candle were replicated gloriously. Even by the epic sweep of Trilogy, Steve Shelley showed no signs of letting up in his robotic reflex like drumming; Lee Ranaldo was forever in the company of a drum stick or pedal; Kim Gordon danced her tribal dances and Thurston cocked those seminal lank frame poses.

Not to leave anyone feeling short changed, there were two encores which drew from Rather Ripped. The 140-minute set (an hour of which was feedback) ended with a mammoth avant garde jam featuring two extra guitarists and an extra drummer from support Corsano Duo.

Apart from the DLB series, a few cities have had the fortune to have Daydream revisited. To those of you that didn’t make it, the best way to think of it is like watching a painter approach a blank canvas sketch an outline, use a light brush, then a soft one, define it, then hurl their paints at it, rip it up, take their shirt off, perspire, re approach it and produce their final piece.

It was an affirming statement of everything Sonic Youth have been, and still are.

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Sonic Youth @ Roundhouse, London
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