Thurston Moore, creeping towards 60, shows Montreal that you don’t need a fancy guitar to be a rock star. The first thing you notice from the Fender he played most of the evening, was the lack of switches and buttons, which apparently decided to pursue a life of ease. If his guitar was in a fight, I assumed it lost, as it seemed to have seen better days. Thurston and his bandmate Lee Ranaldo (whom visited our city in January) are known for having a plethora of guitars, unorthodox tunings and can milk any sound out of them. While tonight, only two guitars dared to join him on stage, they did live up to their promise.
Doors opened at 8:00, but apparently, the doors where in another time zone and only opened a few minutes before 9:00 PM.
Jessica Moss came on stage, solo with her violin and sample pedals. She told us she would only play one song, but it was 25 minutes long. The song would tell the story, musically, about refugees going from danger to safety.
Thurston is all about experimentation, and Jessica did her own. As she started, we felt the desert heat hit our faces, like we were leaving an exotic bazaar to go on a journey. Her song felt like a movie soundtrack, but unfortunately, I wasn’t there to watch a movie. At several points, you could hear some loud laughing. I don’t think it was directed at Jessica, but it was a little distracting none the less. While her set wasn’t my cup of tea (actually, I’m more of a coffee guy…) it was cool for certain parts. I did not however enjoy the layers of vocals, which to me took me out of the soundtrack and wondering how much longer this was going to be. The cheers from the crowd proved that many appreciated the journey even if I wanted off after 10 minutes.
Thurston started quietly with “Cease Fire” which quickly gave us that “Sonic Youth” feel that we all love. The songs would lead to jams and feedback then return like a small detour from the scenic route back to the recognizable song.
Right before Thurston started, an amateur photographer barges through in front of me. I can only assume he is an amateur as he literally would snap no less than 200 shots per song. His little handheld camera being pushed to the limit. For the first half of the show, all I saw was his elbow propped up as he snapped away furiously getting shot after shot of the same man, at the same angle. I have a lot of respect for photographers, our site has some of the best photographers in Montreal and I’m always blown away at the shots they can get in the three songs they are allowed to shoot. A professional gets the money shot, moves on. Happily, an opportunity arose when someone left and as starred at his little camera, replaying the last shot, I made my move and got in front of him, where I could finally enjoy the rest of the show. At least he didn’t use a flash like someone else at the other side of the room, as that would have put me over the edge (where I would politely ask him to get a life).
As Thurston starts the first notes of “Speak to the Wild”, the crowd is audibly pleased. You can tell Thurston is in the zone, eyes closed during the jamming sessions, fully immersed in the experience, just as the sold-out crowd joins him on this voyage.
“Smoke of Dreams” take it down a notch with a mellow groove and soft voice. Thurston would take his time between songs, have some light banter with the audience, even crossing the stage to shake the hand of a female fan who asked how he was doing.
They ended the set with Exalted which crescendos into a heavier version of itself.
The encore consisted of “Ono Soul” from the 1995 Psychic Hearts. Although only 9 songs were played tonight, we felt we had a full show. The songs would go from the structure we recognize to a journey of expression through different levels of intensity before settling back into the structure. Each song takes a life of its own, a 12” version so to speak.
The set was barely over, and Thurston bounces out of the back stage to the merch booth to sign records and take pictures with fans (myself included). Ten years my senior, this man is electrified by the night and energy is still pouring through his veins. His appreciating of the fans does not go unnoticed and I’m sure the merch sold more than those bands that isolate themselves.
The sold out crowd lingers outside, still buzzing from a great experience. I can’t help thinking of our annoying photographer who will have to go through 2000 fuzzy shots and wonder why he can only remember Thurston from the angle of his viewfinder.
Speak to the Wild
Smoke of Dreams