Rock legends don’t pay a visit to Belgium everyday. Therefore it’s no wonder that when it was announced back in June that noise pioneers and alterna gods Sonic Youth were coming over, the 2700 tickets L’ Ancienne Belgique issued were sold in little more than an hour. Sandwiched between a gig in Berlin on Wednesday and their London concert on Friday, the band graced its Belgian fan base with a five star show on Thursday.
Playing all the tracks from their 16th studio album The Eternal, Thurston, Kim, Lee, Steve and Pavement’s Mark Ibold – who joined the quartet in 2006 – also performed a slew of old hits from previous albums Evol, Sister, Daydream Nation and even Bad Moon Rising, ending it all with an explosive Death Valley 69 finale.
As we were sipping beers at the DNA bar after the concert, where a so- called “official after-party” was scheduled and a cameo of the band even promised (sadly they never showed up), my friend seemed puzzled by what she had just seen. She deplored the lack of interaction and eye contact from the band, joked that they were flaccid and seemed to be on heroin. I sat there and listened, outraged that someone would even dare diss what in my humble opinion was an impeccable performance by what is probably the best band in the world. In all fairness, not much was uttered apart from a detached “It’s good to be back” and “this song is called Anti-Orgasm”. Thing is, Sonic Youth don’t have anything to prove. Rare are the artists whose longevity and consistency have been so solid and who have maintained a legion of devoted fans, young and old. They don’t need to put out any new albums, yet still do it out of passion. And they sure don’t need to tour any longer, but keep hitting the road for the great joy of the fans and the love of playing live. So the mere fact that they showed up on time and rocked the shit out of their guitars for an hour and half, keeping it real and never losing their cool vibe – a blend of true nonchalance and faux-ennui – was more than enough for everyone. And we sure were grateful for it.
Words Randa Wazen