Everything about this show suggests that it could be a little bit special. Announced only a week ago it sold out within six minutes and, with tickets changing hands outside for £150, the thought of seeing Sonic Youth at the Scala (which holds a mere 1,100 people, about as tiny a venue as you can get in which to find a band of their stature) promises a definite ‘I was there’ moment.
And the best thing about it is they don't disappoint. With their sixteenth album on the horizon the Youth forego the opportunity to just show off the forthcoming material and instead tease us with a smattering of new songs and a host of classics and crowd pleasers. The tried and tested SY techniques are also on display. Set opener She Is Not Alone sees Steve Shelley pounding away at the drums with beaters while the only drumstick on show is rammed into Thurston’s fret board, and Lee Renaldo gives the ol’ playing guitar with a violin bow trick an airing later on.
The likes of Schizophrenia and Kool Thing may show off just what Sonic Youth are capable when they get the tunes out but they’ve always been about so much more than that. East London has gone post-punk crazy as of late, providing an ideal opportunity for Kim Gordon and her boys to remind us of their New York No Wave roots, as Brother James and a formidable Making the Nature Scene sound every bit as vibrantly fresh and urgent as anything that you’d hear around Hoxton.
The new songs - particularly No Way and Sacred Trickster bridge the eras of Sonic Youth perfectly, maintaining the melody of their recent albums while harnessing their more experimental nature. And most importantly, the mix of songs and their euphoric reception delivers on that promise. They may have been around since 1981 but the obvious love that the band retains for their music and for playing live is what ultimately keeps them sounding so youthful.
By Enna Cooper
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