Back in 2011 when Thurston Moore was touring Demolished Thoughts, he seemed cowed, playing as much acoustic guitar as electric, throwing harp and cello into the mix of his live sound, and accompanied by musicians who looked nervous to follow his lead. Fast forward six years: we now have the Thurston Moore Group, with Sonic Youth stalwart Steve Shelley on drums (last seen in Manchester playing with sadcore legend Mark Kozelek), My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on bass and James Sedwards (Nøught) on guitar, offeriing as much in the way of rock pyrotechnics as Moore himself – and all things feel much more equal. This is a band.
They kick things off with Cease Fire, a song Moore has been playing live since 2015 but which sadly doesn’t appear on his most recent Rock N Roll Consciousness record, and from the get-go you can see they mean business; it’s like watching a brand-new band of teenagers playing as if their lives depended on it. At the end of the first song we overhear someone nearby saying “they could leave the stage now and that would be enough.”
With the exception of Speak to the Wild from 2014’s The Best Day and set closer Ono Soul from 1995’s Psychic Hearts, the band stick pretty close to Rock N Roll Consciousness – we get blinding versions of Exalted, Turn On, Smoke of Dreams and Aphrodite – and perhaps the most surprising thing is that this feels more than enough. With music this filling you don’t hunger for any greatest hits from the Sonic Youth days. Moore doesn’t need it and neither do we.
And perhaps the best thing is, playing with three musicians who are big enough and bold enough to give back at least as good as they get, it bodes well for whatever the Thurston Moore Group choose to do next.