Sonic Youth – House of Blues, San Diego January 7, 2010
[Unattended] review By Kent Manthie
Something finally great rolled into San Diego on Thursday night: Sonic Youth played at the San Diego House of Blues.
SY now are officially a quintet with the addition of producer/engineer extraordinaire, Jim O’Rourke, who is or is not a member – I get differing opinions on that – Mark Ibold, ex-Pavement was recruited to be the “fifth Youth” but O’Rourke showed up downtown San Diego on January 7.
The show was packed – a sold out show, not surprising, given their preeminent status as the best art-noise-rock band around and the NYC downtown, grittiness of their style doesn’t hurt either.
Sonic Youth, misnomer though it may be nowadays, still haven’t lost the touch that they had back when they were young and carefree when they put out such classics as Sister, EVOL, Bad Moon Rising and their 1989 classic Daydream Nation.
This time out, supporting their latest CD, The Eternal, which still has the same intensity that’s gone into all their previous works, SY did a smattering of new tunes off the new album and, no doubt, wowed the crowd with the intensity of the new stuff, opening the show with “No Way” and then “Sacred Trickster”.
The show was mostly a showcase for the newest of their tunes, the stuff from The Eternal , which also included songs such as “Anti-Orgasm”, “Antenna”, “Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso), “What We Know” and much more.
Always loud as hell and full of artfully crafted feedback, guitar noise, not to mention the bombastic drumming from Steve Shelley, the band did its usual innovative antics and had to be fired up to play
I know I haven’t forgotten the two times I’ve seen Sonic Youth, the last time being in Minneapolis in June of 2000, when they played, with Stereolab, outside, on a stage set up in the space in front of the Walker Art Center, one of the two very cool and hip museums in that city (along with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts). Stereolab played first and, WOW, I was blown away by how well they pulled off their show live, that having been my first time seeing them (the second time I saw Stereolab was, coincidentally, at the San Diego House of Blues). Anyway, that night after Stereolab wrapped up their amazing show, the warm summer night’s sun started waning and soon darkness fell and Sonic Youth took the stage, not to be outdone by the previous band, they really lived up to their tag as a “downtown art-noise-rock band” and delivered a masterwork of a show, doing strange but interesting things with their guitars to make unique sounds and textures and with Kim even playing trumpet on one of the tunes. It was magic. The other time I saw them was when, along with Social Distortion playing first, SY opened up for Neil Young, on his Ragged Glory tour, with Crazy Horse in 1991, just after the first Gulf War had started – this was like January 16 or 18th and Neil didn’t let that go unnoticed, doing a Hendrix-like, anger-filled “Star-Spangled Banner” to get the show going.
For their encores, SY did two classics: “Shadow of a Doubt” and “Death Valley ’69”. My biggest regret is that I didn’t get there to see the show due to a miscommunication and subsequent transportation issues, the only thing that’ll make up for that will be when I see them live next time. – KM