Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Chelsea Light Moving – Great American Music Hall, San Francisco – 20/03/13

25 March 2013, 12:50 | Written by Thomas Hannan

“No, thanks. The last time I smoked weed, I was… in my forties.”

Despite politely declining that fan’s offer and requesting a nice red wine rather than an array of spirits or beer for his on stage tipple, Thurston Moore, now 54, can hardly be accused of toning things down of late. Though perhaps the most hopeful thing you could say about Sonic Youth’s current status is that they’re ‘on hiatus’ – after Moore’s split from wife and co-founder Kim Gordon in 2011 – he’s been characteristically busy, joining black metal super group Twilight, releasing an album with Yoko Ono and (interestingly?) Kim Gordon entitled YOKOKIMTHURSTON, and forming Chelsea Light Moving all within the space of a year.

Chelsea Light Moving are not the kind of band 54 year olds get in to. For one thing, Moore still dresses like a man in his… well, it’s hard to tell really, but with those baggy jeans and completely unflattering sweater, he doesn’t look exactly mature. They also don’t sound at all aged. What they sound like is Sonic Youth, or perhaps more precisely, Thurston Moore circa Psychic Hearts, the fine solo album he released in rare down time from the band in 1995 (a couple of tracks from that record are played as tonight’s surprising and very welcome encore, confirming this very much as Thurston’s gig, despite the evident talents of his co-band members). It’s a sound that Moore can slip in to like an old pair of shoes, sure, but it’s still one hell of a racket, the kind that people outside of their twenties should make only if they’re truly excellent at it.

This evening, San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall – think the layout of the Electric Ballroom but the decor of Koko, with beer twice as delicious at half the price – is two thirds full of people who, if they are in their twenties, are soon to say goodbye to them. It’s not got the air of a trendy gig at all, but the impression of not-giving-a-fuck-ness about it makes it a cool all the same. As soon as the band launch in to ‘Frank O’Hara Hit’ (dedicated to all San Franciscans “because they’re all poets”), and each of those in attendance starts nodding in appreciation, you get the feeling you’re amongst a more knowledgeable crowd than those spending their same evening catching buzz bands down in Texas at SXSW – there’s nothing like hearing Thurston shred away at a guitar like this, and me and my new musical soul mates could listen to him do so all day. We’ve got it right.

Or, maybe, I’m just trying to console myself about getting old. I need to approach it more like Thurston, who – despite encountering various technical problems involving a pesky B string that won’t stay in tune and an amplifier that won’t stay on – is clearly still having the time of his life. ‘Groovy and Linda’ is dispatched with startling vigour, ‘Burroughs’ has him on his knees, attacking his instrument like it’s just said something horrid about his mother, and despite the band’s fine new album being barely a month old, there are already new songs from it he’s ready to show us, like the bratty hardcore of ‘No Go’. Thurston Moore’s hipster stock might not be at its highest currently, but the levels of enjoyment in his craft seemingly couldn’t be higher. He doesn’t care. He gets to be Thurston Moore. And that makes him cooler than any of us, by definition.

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