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Downtown Band Rocks Uptown Theater

July 6th, 2009

Sonic Youth – United Palace – July 3, 2009

Sonic Youth
United Palace Theater is an impressive venue with ornately carved, vaulted ceilings, elaborate hanging fixtures and gold as far as you can see. Plus, it’s a novel experience to sit in seats and watch Sonic Youth play on a theatrical stage. The acoustics of this space were painstakingly designed for live sound, but of course that’s lost when the amps are turned up to 11.

Friday night, this majestic palace hosted rock royalty. Just offstage sat a double custom rack holding rows of guitars that would make any 16-year-old boy cry. This resulted in a lot of guitar choreography between songs—roadies handed over the next prepared guitar to Thurston Moore, who proceeded to grind the neck against an amp, throw it on the stage and step on the strings. After almost 30 years, it’s impressive to continuously put on a show like this. Sonic Youth is a band driven by their passion for exploring dissonant sound in a pop structure and it’s evident on their latest album, the appropriately titled The Eternal.

When the band returned to the stage for the encore, Moore beckoned to the audience: “Come closer, closer to us.” Those in the crowd abandoned their seats to get up close and personal. “That’s better.” This is where the show went from passive observation to a sea of bouncing mayhem, which encouraged the band to come out for yet another encore and play two obscure tracks from their early catalog, “Brother James” and “Death Valley ’69.” Sonic Youth doesn’t rely on playing their groundbreaking early work, so these songs won’t be repeated live anytime soon. They continue to innovate and remain one of the most challenging and influential bands in experimental rock. —Jason Dean