Thurston Moore – review

Union Chapel, London

In his 30 years fronting New York art-rock perennials Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore has always looked to confound expectations. The cult star's latest solo project may just be his most surprising yet. Produced by Beck, Moore's recent album Demolished Thoughts saw him eschew Sonic Youth's trademark dissonance and feedback in favour of a low-key, beatific strain of folk-rock noir that borders on the bucolic. At this one-off London show, he looked to reproduce this atypical material with a four-piece band featuring a violinist and a harpist.

Even shorn of Beck's studio trickery, the songs stood up. Benediction had a Velvet Underground air of ennui and sexual transgression, with Moore murmuring "You better hold your lover down/ Tie him to the ground." Tracks such as Illuminine and the plangent January were Syd Barrett-like exercises in blanched, mildly trippy chamber-pop.

With a 12-string guitar slung around his neck and looking far younger than his 52 years, the taciturn Moore had a professorial air as he constantly lost his place among his lyric sheets on a lectern. He pulled it together for In Silver Rain With a Paper Key, a flight of cryptic whimsy powered by a gorgeous melody, and the muted psychedelia of Blood Never Lies, whose air of stoned serenity strongly suggested Nick Drake.

Keen to re-establish his agent-provocateur credentials, Moore read an apocalyptic love poem, Blossom, for the encore, then strummed through the facetious motorik of an old live favourite, Fri/End. It was a fittingly contrary end to a engrossing evening.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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