From watching them in muddy festival fields in 90s, seeing them across the UK with a network of like minded zine writers and fans on the Dirty tour in 92, to seeing their last UK tour in 2010, it’s fair to say that Sonic Youth have been the musical accompaniment for a vast part of my life. Not many bands have truly changed the musical landscape in the way these four NY based musicians did. 

‘Live In Brooklyn’ captures the band at a unique moment in time, they probably realised the end was imminent, due to well documented tensions between married couple Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon which had only just emerged, yet they played a set which spanned their thirty year career. They were always diving into their extensive back catalogue at every gig, yet for this gig, they seemed to draw on a greater array of tunes from across all albums. 

Sonic Youth had become renowned for their outdoor summer shows by this point, as they’d been playing an annual outdoor gig somewhere in NY since 1992. This night drummer Steve Shelley had put together the setlist, one which he admitted pulled from some songs they had ‘retired’ from their live set many years ago and rarely played anymore, for what turned out to be their last ever live show in the US.

‘Live In Brooklyn’ encompasses all that was great about this band, starting off with the huge melodic guitar riffs of ‘Brave Men Run’ from 1985’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ album, a song that exemplifies their harmonious yet discordant approach as it spirals into darker territory from its opening refrains, the band draw out the ending, seamlessly transitioning into the sublime ‘Death Valley 69’. They manage to produce a landscape of guitar riffs weaving in and out of discordance and melody with ease.

‘Kotton Krown’ from 1987 album ‘Sister’ roars with guitar discordance whilst it’s gentler melodies sung by Kim and Thurston ring out over the top. ‘Kill Yr Idols’ from their 1983 released EP of the same name has the ferocity it was born with running through its veins, and finds Moore shouting “kill your idols, sonic death” over the glorious guitar chaos.

Their ferocity live was unparalleled, guitar noise which flows from pure discordance into melody and settles on some unique hybrid of the two. It’s not until the fifth song in that guitarist Lee Ranaldo addresses the audience before setting his vocals to work on the exuberant ‘Eric’s Trip’, the only song pulled from their ground breaking 1990 epic ‘Goo’.  

Thurston admits to only rehearsing two days ago and going “super deep” for some of the songs on the setlist before launching into ‘Starfield Road’ from 1994’s ‘Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star’, not necessarily one of the oldest tunes on here, but one which didn’t always make it into previous sets. Some of these tunes have rarely been played live since the early days, which lends extra gravitas to the likes of a slow brooding ‘I Love Her All The Time’ into the equally emotive ‘Ghost Bitch’ both from ‘Bad Moon Rising. ‘Drunken Butterfly’ from 1992’s ‘Dirty’ still sounds as defiantly menacing as when I first heard it, as does the discordantly dreamy single from 1986 ‘Flower’ with its “support the power of women, use the power of men” refrains sung by Kim over the feisty guitars. By contrast ‘Sugar Kane’ has free flowing melodies throughout over the riffs which dip in and out of noise and harmony throughout and was possibly the closest they ever came to a pop single, albeit a beautifully noisy one. Surprisingly there’s ‘Psychic Hearts’ from Thurston’s solo album given the full Sonic Youth treatment before a thunderous version of ‘Inhuman’ from 1983’s debut album ‘Confusion Is Sex’ closes the set.

The last ever US show on 11th August 2011, on an outdoor stage overlooking the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was one which the band seemingly gave everything, possibly aware of the uncertainty hanging around their future.  Although I saw them many times, this was definitely one gig I wish I’d have seen, and ‘Live In Brooklyn’ is a perfectly captured aural snapshot of that last US gig from of one of the finest guitar bands of all time. 



From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.