An excellent gig with some poetry added in as the Thurston Moore Group played St George’s Hall in a show that was part of the Tonight At Noon celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the seminal The Mersey Sound.
Somewhat shamefully, I’d not really realised that Tonight At Noon had anything to do with The Mersey Sound prior to this event being announced – I only knew it as a track off The Jam’s This Is The Modern World album, although now I can see some subtle references in its lyrics, such as “I will bring you night flowers” and “amongst the dripping trees”.
I got to St George’s Hall in good time for the support act, heading up into the main hall and grabbing a seat to the left of the stage. Unlike the last gig I went to here, Giant Sand (see my review here), the main area of the hall was standing.
There was some poetry from Adrian Henri and then The Liverpool Scene over the speakers, before local noiseniks Mugstar hit the stage, whom I had previously seen briefly at the GIT Awards at Constellations in May 2016 (as reviewed here).
As when I has seen them before, I’m not going to be able to name many specific tracks that they performed, but I particularly enjoyed the second number, a Spacemen 3-esque epic instrumental during which singer Pete Smyth nearly fell over. In an almost cool way.
Most of their songs have no singing, but a few of them featured some wailing and screaming. Another song reminded me of a more extreme version of My Bloody Valentine guitar frenzy combined with some crazy electronics.
This was followed by a slow, almost quiet track that developed into shards of noise reminding me of The Velvet Underground. I think this might have been Flemish Weave off 2016’s Magnetic Seasons, the one record of theirs I have.
These references don’t really do the band justice – imagine a really, really heavy krautrock band, but still with some tunes. Maybe Hookworms are the closest comparison.
They were certainly a suitable support act, with their fit illustrated by the sleeve of their joint 2014 vinyl release with The Cosmic Dead which was a tribute to Sonic Youth’s classic Goo album cover.
I beat a hasty retreat to the bar at the end of their set, assuming there would be more of a queue than there turned out to be. I was also expecting to be able to get a pint, but those were all sold out, so I had to settle for a bottle of Peroni, which was much needed on a warm evening.
I had previously seen Thurston Moore at Liverpool Sound City two years ago (see my review here), as well as once as part of the wonderful Sonic Youth – sadly just the once, at the Kilburn National back in March 1989.
Unlike the previous time I had seen them (when they appear to have been a Band rather than a Group!), ex-Youth drummer Steve Shelley wasn’t playing, with his place taken by an excellent substitute called Jim.
However, the main man is clearly Thurston himself, standing to the right as you look at the stage in the Concert Room, with notes and words on a music stand to help him. Also there was a copy of The Mersey Sound, and he read Adrian Henri’s Tonight At Noon after thanking Mugstar for the loan of their drums and guitar amps.
“White Americans will demonstrate for equal rights in front of the Black House”
First up was the somewhat Kool Thing-esque Cease Fire, a digital-only song about the “power that no gun can extinguish as love will rule always” released earlier this year, so not one I was familiar with.
He then read Roger McGough’s Comeclose And Sleepnow, before raiding his latest album, Rock N Roll Consciousness, for four of its five lengthy tracks.
Turn On featured some great clanging guitar, while he dedicated Aphrodite to the goddess herself.
A philistine somewhere behind me got shushed when trying to complain when Thurston read another poem, this time Party Piece by Brian Patten.
Following this, the main set ended with Exalted, another track off this year’s album, starting with a fabulously intense instrumental intro.
They left the stage briefly, returning to play Speak To The Wild, the opening track off 2014’s The Best Day. Off they all went again after that, with one more encore to follow, Ono Soul from solo debut Psychic Hearts released in 1995. This had a lengthy breakdown in the middle.
I really enjoyed Thurston Moore again – he perhaps could be accused of a little self-indulgence with some of the length and guitar overloads of some of the songs, but that is how they are on the record as well.
I think he’s a little better when he’s slightly more concise, or mixes it up a bit more. Rock N Roll Consciousness has no song under six minutes, with the longest nudging twelve. His other solo albums tend to have shorter numbers, while my favourite Sonic Youth record (Daydream Nation) is the perfect mix across 4-7 minutes, allowing his pop sensibilities to flourish alongside his desire to wig out.
Having said all that, his latest album is a good one, just perhaps not him at his absolute finest. The venue provided a great juxtaposition of the fairly extreme music on offer from both acts, the 1960’s poetry and the grand surroundings, including sculpture and chandelier.
I wore my red Sonic Nurse Sonic Youth t-shirt in honour of the main man, with a surprisingly high number of other band tees in the crowd, including Black Sabbath, Car Seat Headrest, The Stooges, Roky Erickson, Public lmage Ltd, The Cure and J Mascis as well as the more unusual sights of Steely Dan and King Crimson ones.
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify: