Thurston Moore Alights Upon Great American Music Hall

[Above photo: Phil Sharp)

Thurston Moore w/ Sebadoh

October. 7, 2014

Great American Music Hall, San Francisco

In 30 years, Thurston Moore doesn’t seem to have physically aged.

His music hasn’t changed much, either, and why should it? When a musician works within the particular experimental mode of which Moore was a founding practitioner, it’s a radical move to keep doing the same thing. (Or, in Moore’s case, to return to it, following his 2011 acoustic album, Demolished Thoughts.)

Moore – best known by his work with his former wife Kim Gordon in the New York City noise rock band Sonic Youth (active c. 1981 to c. 2011) – played the Tenderloin’s Great American Music Hall Tuesday in support of his solo record, The Best Day, which will be out Oct. 21 on Matador Records. The titular single became available in August.

Supporting Moore were London-based guitarist James Sedwards, bassist Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine), and drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth).

Sebadoh_© Travis Tyler
Sebadoh © Travis Tyler

The lo-fi rock band Sebadoh – formed in 1986 – opened for Moore et al., and the crowd was glad to see them. (“Been a long time!” observed a voice from the floor, after the band finished their first song.) The band obliged their welcoming crowd by taking requests.

“Shit Soup!” someone yelled.

“Really?” said bassist Lou Barlow. He looked at his bandmates, and they shrugged. “All right.” Sebadoh played “Shit Soup.”

Moore and his band arrived onstage promptly and mellowly and immediately began “Forevermore,” a long song from the new record (they’re all long) that’s pleasingly menacing. The set consisted of six of the new record’s eight songs, all very similar to much of the work of Sonic Youth, i.e., sprawling instrumentally-central pieces (with barely scrutable vocals grafted onto them) whose repetitiveness is their greatest asset.

For reasons besides that, at age 56, he’s still got the hair of a teenager and the skin of a baby, it’s thrillingly eerie to watch Moore perform. His movements are so fluid as to be ghostly, and you almost wish he wouldn’t talk between songs, because it ruins the illusion that you’re watching some ancient procedure unintelligible to you and most humans.

Rather than do the obvious thing and play a two-song encore, Moore played two one-song encores, both from his 1995 solo album Psychic Hearts, each of which he seemed to be methodically and purposefully extracting from his innards. It provokes a peculiar admiration, to witness his exceptionally unlovely level of concentration – such that, when he finally left the stage for good, you wanted to follow him, but you also felt relieved.

Set List: Forevermore | Speak to the Wild | Germs Burn | Detonation | The Best Day | Grace Lake

Encore 1: Pretty Bad

Encore 2: Ono Soul