We’ve seen Thurston Moore here in some pretty nasty moods, most notably in 1991 on the Neil Young arena tour when he kicked over the mike stand and stormed off the stage.
Most of the time, the Sonic Youth guitarist quietly goes about the business of blowing our ears back.
On Tuesday night at Mr. Smalls, it was a different Thurston Moore in Chelsea Light Moving. The moppy-haired guitarist, a youthful 54, was chatty, funny and goofing around with the crowd and his new bandmates.
It started with his entrance, asking if there were any beers on stage. When he was handed a can and a few crowd members chanted “chug, chug!” he did just that, then threw the can toward the drummer.
It was a small crowd, maybe just over a hundred people, but all that seemed to do was make the show looser and more intimate.
CLM has come to life as a result of his marital split with Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon (after 27 years), and while it shares some characteristics of his former band, it’s not Sonic Youth. Obviously, Moore is now alone on vocals, but also, with Lee Ranaldo out of the picture and Keith Wood in, the guitar work is less intricate and less layered. It’s almost like a dumbed-down Sonic Youth, but if you’re out for good sludgy, pile-driving rock, this is a fine substitute.
The band drew from its debut album for the grungy (“Burroughs”), the drony (“Alighted,” “Frank O’Hara Hit”), the bratty (“Lip”) and variations on all three (“Empires of Time,” for Roky Erickson). Most of the songs, with lyrics more skeletal, had Moore stomping pedals and running up and down the neck of his Strat to create his signature ear-shattering squalls.
After seven songs from the new album, he declared, “OK, we’re out of old songs” (SY always looked forward, after all) and he taped lyrics to the mike stand to do a newly written song called “The Ecstasy,” then added “Sunday Stage” and “No Go.”
In this midst of this playful climax to the set, he joked with Wood about his co-guitarist's whammy bar being squeaky and recalled once recording a whole cassette of his own squeaky bar. He also joked about doing an album and tour of covers — “Kinks or [s--t] like that.”
In the place of covers, Chelsea (also featuring the sturdy rhythm section of Samara Lubelski and John Moloney) returned with a pair of moody songs — “Staring Statues” and “Pretty Bad” — from his 1995 solo album, “Psychic Hearts.”
Appropriately, they never touched the Sonic Youth catalog, but there were no complaints from a crowd that saw a lighter side of Thurston Moore in a still-heavy band.
Shockwave Riderz, featuring Modey Lemon members Phil Boyd and Paul Quattrone with singer Sarah Mcelhaney, opened with a set of frantic garage-punk that also showed a poppier side of the two Modeys.
Chelsea Light Moving setlist
Sleeping Where I Fall
Groovy + Linda
Frank O’Hara Hit
Empires of Time
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