Due to an eleventh hour scratching of reviewers, I’ve been tasked with heading out on a Monday night (the horror) and catching a show by former Sonic Youth guitarist and a well-respected solo artist in his own right, Thurston Moore.
Besides his work with the aforementioned Sonic Youth on era-defining songs like Teen Age Riot and Schizophrenia (as well as his proclivity for pilfering the contents of Peter Frampton’s cooler), I’m not really familiar with pretty much any of Thurston Moore’s solo work beyond the fact that it exists. Nevertheless, I’m always keen to hear new music, when it’s from a living legend like Thurston it’s even better.
I failed to get the memo that the show had been moved from Brisbane’s Old Museum to the Woolly Mammoth for tonight, and so I’ve rocked up to a ghost town. Legging it as fast as I can through Fortitude Valley (made all the more difficult being stopped every 500 metres and hit up for cigarettes), I make it to Woolly Mammoth in time to catch opening act Gold Class finish up their set. Life Is A Gun is an absolute ripper of a song that I loved upon its release earlier in the year and I’m glad I managed to catch it but disappointed I missed the rest of what I’m sure was a fantastic set.
Having now been afforded the chance to catch my breath and get a beer, I finally get a good look at the crowd who are here and slowly trickling their way in. Generation X is out in force tonight, and I see plenty of salt and pepper beards, flannelette and people drinking red wine at a gig (people do that?!?).
One such pleasant couple sits down at the booth next to me while I’m waiting for Thurston Moore and proceed to sing the praises of Gold Class (‘I love the kind of Morrissey vibe the singer gives off’), talk about the times they’ve seen Sonic Youth live (it was a lot) as well as responding to all my questions about what to expect from a Thurston Moore show.
Speaking of the man, he and his band show up not too long after to the crowd’s delight. He opens his set with Forevermore and Speak To The Wild; a pair of sprawling songs off of his 2014 LP The Best Day. The riffs are huge, the instrumental jams extended and it’s difficult to tell whether it’s one song or several at times but it is absolutely glorious sonically. ‘Play it again!’ is the hollered response of one punter immediately following. He plays another song that I don’t catch the name of but it sounds like a white hot blend of The Eagles, proto-punk and prog-rock, a combination that by all means shouldn’t work but absolutely does.
Thurston takes a breather after about half an hour and three songs to introduce the band: Debbie on bass, James on guitar and Steve on drums. It’s only when I’m pulling together the research to write this review later that I realise that Debbie is the bassist from My Bloody Valentine and Steve is fucking Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth. I feel retrospectively moronic but finding out I watched a collective of rock and roll royalty onstage without even realising it is pretty cool. Thurston talks about their day spend taking photos with koalas. He says he always thought his spirit animal was a giraffe (laughs from the crowd) but he’s not so sure now. His deadpan articulate delivery is a hit.
He calls the next song ‘a song of peace’ before launching into Cease Fire, it’s anvil-heaviness belying it’s harmonious message. He dedicates the next song Aphrodite to the eponymous Goddess of Love, who I’m sure appreciated the absolutely blistering solo from one of the Gods of Grunge midway through.
Thurston wishes the crowd a merry Christmas before giving us a gift, a ‘psychedelic love song’. I could have sworn I heard him mention that they only wrote it today, which seems ludicrous because it stretches out over about seven or eight minutes and did they write it while holding koalas? It’s my highlight of the night though, another wild solo from Thurston and an ending that sounds almost like David Bowie leaving me wishing I could go home and Spotify that song again and again.
I decide to Google how old Thurston Moore actually is in between songs and my jaw hits the floor when I find out he’s 57. Older than my fucking dad? I’d been looking at him onstage all night, lanky and with that signature mop of hair, and thinking that he was mid-40s. There’s just no way this man hasn’t used some combination of voodoo and alchemy to continue to give off such a youthful vibe and look. Did I question whether he could write that last song in a day? Because I’m now surprised he didn’t write three in the last hour.
The band close the set by going on an almost half an hour long instrumental jam and it’s difficult to tell whether it’s all one song or multiple songs. What it is though is a gargantuan cacophony of noise, piercing guitars and violent percussion and shuddering bass that hooks the crowd despite its lengthy timeframe, everyone well aware that the music being created onstage is being made by some of the finest and most accomplished musicians they’ll ever witness.
Thurston takes his first exit to rapturous cheers and returns soon after to play an encore, the relatively straightforward alt-punk Psychic Hearts off of his solo debut, the 1995 album of the same name. He hasn’t played the song in over a year and needs to refer to a notepad for the lyrics, but if you closed your eyes you’d never be able to tell this wasn’t 1995 again, a satisfyingly simple end to a long and winding journey of a gig.
The crowd exits into the night, work may be looming tomorrow but in the moment it’s all about how Thurston Moore found the fountain of youth and knocked everyone’s socks off for a night. He and the band are reportedly working on a new album for next year so, just like the Gen-X crowd who showed up to a Fortitude Valley gig on a Monday night to remind us youngsters they very much still know how to rock, it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down any time soon.