Review: Thurston Moore & John Moloney in Belfast
January 28, 2013
This past Tuesday 22nd January, Belfast was well and truly rocked, despite perhaps few even being aware at the time. Sonic Youth front man Thurston Moore strolled into Stiff Kitten for an unpredictable evening of music (well, we hoped), alongside fellow Chelsea Light Moving musician, John Moloney.
Collectively known as Caught on Tape, Moloney & Moore served up six dates throughout a chilly week in Ireland, specifically: Galway, Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Clonakilty and Belfast respectively. The duo previously recorded one live album under this guise, and it continues to represent the form with which their often experimental gigs take. And that was what was offered here; a supposed night of free-flowing musical sounds, as improvised as our hosts felt necessary. While that may be unpalatable for some, as a long-time Sonic Youth fan, it was certainly right up my street. What ended up occurring though, was markedly different and exhilarating.Thurston Moore Following local outfit Comply or Die’s set, the audience waited with baited breath for this rare opportunity to see the eclectic Florida-born singer do his thing on a small, intimate stage. When I say “they strolled in”, they really did too. Just as we took up a spot to the side of the rather impressive Kitten stage, adjacent to the merchandise stand, Thurston plopped himself beside us, in unassuming style.
Suitability low key, he proceeded to hand deliver a hundred fanzines produced specifically for the night, took a few moments to sign & number them, before leaping onto the stage to tower above us even more (Thurston is an extremely tall man). For the most part, he was respectfully left alone to meander around the place, until he picked up a microphone and began what can only be described as “story time”. Thurston engaged the crowd with genuinely charming wit, revealing his love for Irish poetry and detailing their experiences as they plundered the country with their wildly different sets. It almost seemed as if Thurston was having far too much a good time to bother with such trivial matters as music!
With the twosome finally indulging in utilising their instruments, they erupted. Those in attendance were treated to an hours’ worth of tuneful numbers from Moore’s back-catalogue, merged in a volatile cocktail with rants, and a thoughtful dabbling in poetry by Thurston, who recited a couple of numbers he had penned that day for the event’s fanzine. Launching into his back catalogue, with the trademark freedom and explorative jostling associated with Sonic Youth, the set was surprisingly focused, spliced with a rather tasty dose of extended notes and improvised moments peppering the night, but by no means dominating proceedings. 1995’s Moore solo album, “Psychic Hearts” provided much of the material, and was warmly received. A brilliant rendition of that album’s signature track was delivered with gusto to end the night, and a little more edge and grit than even the album incarnation. Equally of interest was “Pretty Bad”, which saw Thurston hissing and snarling his way through the track like the most floppy-haired of predatory she-beasts. Elsewhere, Chelsea Light Moving début “Burroughs”, provided a memorable, raucous highlight. It’s certainly a song that announces the upcoming album in spectacular style.
Throughout, Moore enthusiastically snaked his way around the stage as if he were transfixed by his instrument, his barely aged face contorting as is if he were seduced by his own instrument. Meanwhile, Moloney pounded on his drums, and didn’t engage the audience nearly as much. His role was that of a machine, powering through the gig, occasionally charming the crowd but more often enabling Thurston’s ramblings and anecdotes a context that never allowed them to become indulgent or boring. Personally, this was one of the best gigs of this scale I’ve ever attended, as Thurston unveiled a warmth and knowing humour that rubbished his image being that of an aloof, difficult “artist”. On this night, he couldn’t have been further from the cliché. Moloney is also a fierce talent worth keeping an eye out for. While what was promised may have appeared to be a tricky (for some) session of improv and sounds, instead we were treated to a classic but digestible taste of it, coupled with some of the most rhythmic tunes that Moore has ever conjured up. The show was all the better for it.As always, there was the promise of a return, and while this unique partnership may not visit Belfast together again, they certainly left a mark (stain?), and Moore himself, will surely manifest in some fashion or another. I suggest when he does, you do whatever is necessary to be there.