I’ve seen Sonic Youth like a million times. Well, maybe more like 10, but that is more than almost anyone else and definitely more than any other band that is not from the DC area. This is what longevity gets you. They are probably my favorite band and I never get tired of listening to them, but even with the best musicians, there is always the chance that familiarity breeds indifference. I remember how the last time I saw Fugazi (probably the band I have seen most of all) I was kind of antsy and distracted, and took them for granted… and then they vanished. So I try to keep paying attention to the bands I love.
My interest in SY has been steady for a long time, but a few albums back I began to find myself less immersed in their new material. I had a copy of Murray St. that cracked and broke; I hardly ever listened to Sonic Nurse. But I really loved Rather Ripped so I was pretty interested in hearing their new album, The Eternal. And I like it, but not as much as Rather Ripped. The new album meanders between generic Sonic Youth and some better material that doesn’t always really sound much like Sonic Youth at all. Good, but not great. And I’m not that wild about the single, “Sacred Trickster.” So I went to the show more for the sake of seeing them again, not with the keen interest I had in the Rather Ripped tour a few years ago.
Turns out they were good as ever and played a fun set: the new album and assorted oldies. It was cool to hear “Catholic Block” and for the encore they did a double-shot of the best Kim songs from Daydream, “The Sprawl” and “‘Cross the Breeze.” The new ones were good live and I really love the Lee song “Walkin Blue” — this was reassuring since one of the only disappointments from Rather Ripped was that the Lee contribution wasn’t one of the album’s best. The sprawling “Massage the History” is sleeky and mysterious… sounds more like a Thurston/Kim solo song on record, but it came across pretty well live. I can’t ever remember seeing SY play acoustic at a regular show before (as Thurston did on that song), though I may just be forgetting.
But overall most of the set was heavy and loud, and like usual, Kim was the face of the band for live-performance purposes. Here is the setlist and some photos from the City Paper. I don’t really have a lot to say except I’m glad I made it. I thought about going back the next night to try to score a ticket at the last second, but busy life and a summer of being broke kept me away.
Here’s their performance of “Calming the Snake”:
NPR also streamed their set from the following night right here.
By the way I regret missing opener Endless Boogie. I saw them once before opening up for someone at DC9 and really liked them. They were sort of like a jammin’ version of ZZ Top. The Sonic Youth show started surprisingly early and we were caught a little unawares; I guess the old rock stars had to get to bed before midnight.