A few years ago, the U.K.’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival organizers came up with a novel idea: take a seminal indie rock band and have them play one of their most revered albums for an adoring audience. Tortoise, Slint and the Stooges have participated, and this summer, the concept materialized on these shores with Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation.”
The 5,000-strong crowd at McCarren Park Pool wasn’t seeing the band’s first pass at performing the full album, but they likely witnessed one of Sonic Youth’s best homecoming shows ever. This despite the added pressure of playing a 20-year-old work that everybody in attendance knew front to back.
That said, the group was on from start to finish. From the moment Thurston Moore sparked the opening chords on “Teen Age Riot,” it was clear how in tune with another the quinet is. They know how to anticipate each others movements, directions and times to pull things back together after heavy feedback/improv jams. Aside from a few knowing glances, they rarely look at each other. And when they do, they’re mostly checking out Thurston Moore’s stage meanderings.
Peak moments were hard to narrow down, but “Cross the Breeze,” was exceptionally loud and thunderous when Steve Shelley kicked in with the ferocious drum line. “Candle,” was laced with the familiar twin guitar solos, and during “Eric’s Trip,” Moore was using a drumstick on the neck of his guitar, with a look on his face suggesting that all of this was very normal.
The band returned for a 21st century encore, dipping into tunes from last year’s “Rather Ripped.” Former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold joined the group on stage to help out with bass duties, as he did on the tour in support of the album.
A raucous version of “Incinerate” opened things up, which gave way to Kim Gordon’s “Reena.” She showed bursts of energy, bouncing all over the stage and flailing her arms as if it was indeed still 1988. After the two full hours, Sonic Youth had torn through one great album and half of another. Let’s do this more often!
Here is Sonic Youth’s set list:
“Teen Age Riot”
“Cross the Breeze”
“The Wonder/Hyperstation/Eliminator Jr.”
“Do You Believe in Rapture?”
“What a Waste”
“Jams Run Free”