Sonic Youth, The Roundhouse, London, September 2007
Oh, expectation! How could I not be excited. This gig was another one under the ATP Don’t Look Back umbrella: Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation live, in full. When talking about amazing records from the end days of the 80s, you fail if you omit that one. It was an album that was constantly pilfered from my flatmate’s room when I was at Uni. This was 1988-90, a period when student radio was thriving in New Zealand, not only due to amazing music from overseas, but also from New Zealand. It was a time when fringe or art rock was also finally morphing into the more acceptable genre that became known as ‘alternative’. Not the catch-all generic term it is today on iTunes… but the tag that encompassed cutting edge music - the stuff you knew you would be talking about in, well… twenty years’ time. I had seen them play in Wellington about 12 years earlier (with Foo Fighters, in Wellington) when Washing Machine came out. Daydream Nation is simpy a landmark rock record. yes, Sonic Youth do wailing vocals, scraping guitars and atonal nonsense til the cows come home, but they also have a knack for banging out epic songs. ‘Teenage Riot’, ‘Silver Rocket’, ‘Eric’s Trip’, ‘Hey Joni’, ‘Total Trash’ and the shimmer of ‘Candle’ were all highlights. They’re the more conventional tracks on the record for sure, but I thought it was in those songs that you actually hear (and live, see) just how Moore and Ronaldo intertwine their guitar work, and how Steve Shelley’s drumming just anchors the whole flippin’ thing… changing time, changing beats, then back… subtle, then sledgehammer. It’s that in & out of madness and pace changes of songs like ‘Cross The Breeze’ that let them all freak out and “jazz it up” before returning from feedback bedlam, maybe more than once in a song too. This was a great gig. I admit I have the most love for the first two sides of this double album. Later when they completed sides 3 and 4, to then play more recent stuff I was unfamiliar with, I had kind of switched off to just process what I had seen earlier. I had just seen one of the greatest rock albums in history performed. Not a bad Saturday night. Can't go past hearing ‘Teenage Riot’ live. Golden.