Sonic Youth’s “Express Way To Yr Skull (Live in Prospect Park)” from Big Ass Lens.
There was this terrific moment Saturday night during the encore of Sonic Youth’s terrifyingly mobbed Prospect Park show, just after they’d finished Daydream Nation thriller “Silver Rocket” amid a strobe-light finale, when Thurston Moore demanded the band play another song. At this point, Lee Ranaldo had already dropped his hardware and Kim had disappeared into the bandshell’s wings, yet there Thurston was, taunting them both, “DON’T WIMP OUT!” Then when Kim didn’t reappear immediately, Thurston led a chant to get her back: “Kim Gee! Kim Gee!” It was the sort of teasing that only a sibling or a committed life partner could really pull off, as this is the sort of innocuous, but potentially needling behavior that causes relationships with far less history and more drugs to disintegrate. And after a minute, Thurston too realized he could really be pissing off his wife, and apologized, saying something to the effect of, She could be taking care of business, I shouldn’t do that.
The turnout for this thing was David Byrne levels of insanity, with Prospect Park so full that the free-show gate was officially closed by eight. Well worth it. As far as Sonic Youth shows go, and I’m in at least ten deep, this was one of the best. Only four of members this time; Jim O’Rourke’s thankfully long gone and Mark Ibold’s currently preoccupied with some other band’s reunion. But frankly, here less is way more. It also possibly accounted for them delving into lots of older stuff, like, four Daydream Nation songs (!) and leading off the encore, Evol‘s classic Kim-starring sexily tortured heavy-breather, “Shadow of a Doubt.” That was, as we like to say about things that can still give jaded jerks shivers, truly transcendent.
As was when Kim eventually returned from her maybe-bathroom-break, still well-coifed in her deliberately torn leggings and gladiator heels, and the band embarked on a near-perfect rendition of the droning 12-minute classic, “Expressway To Yr Skull.” The look on her face made me imagine Kim later playfully slapping her husband upside the head and chiding, “You asshole.” Maybe not. But moments like this are the unending allure of this band. They’re one of the few who’ve made genius appear sustainable, something that largely seems both impossible and inhuman. So to see the veil lifted, and their humanity revealed, is lovely. And encouraging.