Lee Ranaldo Band @ The Zoo, Brisbane, 21.10.12
Lauren (age 1) was learning to stand today. She thought it was hilarious the way, after swaying upright for a second or two, she’d drop down with a BOMP on her padded bottom. She was so proud when she saw how happy we were watching her.
Driving to the show tonight is strange, disorientating. After 6.30 pm all the traffic disappears from even the main streets in The Gap and at one point it feels like I’ve been transported to a parallel, scared dimension where I’m driving down a similar yet different unmade road. It’s raining. How can it be raining?
I arrive at the Zoo and there’s a support band playing indie pop. They seem like nice kids. They seem like they’re having a good time. Playing indie pop.
I meet Alan Licht – the Lee Ranaldo Band guitarist, and former member of several minimalist NYC bands – backstage. He’s still lean and sardonic.
Lee asks if we’ve met before. I nod in the affirmative; back in the early 90s.
“Sorry for being an asshole,” I say.
Lee Ranaldo takes the stage: and everyone whips out their iPhones to take the same photograph of Lee Ranaldo that’s always taken. It doesn’t matter the means or end result. What matters, as ever, is the proximity.
I’m watching the Lee Ranaldo Band at the Zoo, and it’s the second song in – the glorious coruscation and layered melodies of ‘Off The Wall’ (from his new album Between The Times & The Tides) and frankly, if it’d been released by R.E.M. several years back it’d have been a monster stadium-filler so thank Christ it wasn’t. It’s a mere three minutes long, a proper pop song and I can’t quit from hugging myself with pleasure. This is why people take lovers.
Several thoughts occur simultaneously:
- I’ve never written a decent review of any of Lee’s bands.
- Is this the highlight, so soon?
- He’s the George Harrison of Sonic Youth.
- Road movie songs are underestimated.
- Man, he’s glowing with happiness. I need secrets, I need succour.
- I ain’t never stood this close to Lee Ranaldo on stage before.
So I’m watching the Lee Ranaldo Band at the Zoo, and it’s the fifth number in, ‘Hammer Blows’. We’ve already had the disorientating ‘Angles’, the early 90s swoop of ‘Genetic’, the Oasisian swagger of ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ *betcha never thought to see that adjective used anywhere near a former SY member’s review*, the nostalgia teen-fest of ‘Xtina As I Knew Her’ (which is classic Ranaldo like one of those splashed neon-driven numbers from Daydream Nation, say – and has all the spoken word spookiness and drug/hedonism/scared references). And yes! Bam. Double bam. The violin bow comes out, sawing across the strings. Licht is indulging in some relentless one-note, one-string repetition, growing louder and more distorted by the second: a full-on freak out.
Several thoughts occur:
- He’s not standing on ceremony. But we need ceremony. Don’t we?
- Man, R.E.M. sure owe Sonic Youth a debt.
- Does Steve Shelley become out of breath, pounding skins like that?
- Friendly, revealing. Is this the highlight, so soon?
- I first saw Sonic Youth play London at The Venue next to Victoria Station in ’84. The equipment packed up, and Thurston predated Nirvana by several years by smashing up the stage on his debut UK appearance.
So I’m watching the Lee Ranaldo Band at the Zoo, and it’s ‘Shouts’ (sixth number in). Lee shows us the photograph on the back of his guitar – the famous one of the couple ‘kissing’ in the middle of last year’s Vancouver hockey riots – and he explains how it helped him make sense of the “inspirational” Occupy Wall Street” movement that was happening on his front doorstep, pretty much.
So, several thoughts occur:
- Man, he’s a hippy!
- Man, I knew that.
- Man, he’s more punk than any of you.
- Man. The highlight, so soon?
- Mobile phones are shit to take notes on.
So I’m standing nicely caught between oblivion and the present, as the following play:
- ‘Lost (Plane T Nice)’ – another pop song.
- The vulnerable ‘Stranded’.
- A New York tribute – sounds like they’re playing an early Talking Heads song, I can’t say for sure as a fellow is talking very loudly in my ear the one time I venture to the back to grab myself some water in the Zoo heat.
And then comes this:
… followed by a David Crosby cover.
It’s even weirder and disorientating, stepping out of the gig into “Australia’s Only Entertainment Precinct (TM)” where music is blasting out on the street three times as loud as the Lee Ranaldo Band and late night revellers are dancing merrily to ‘Summer Nights’, filmed drunkenly by other late night revellers, and one late night drunk is coarsely baiting the police who are following. No magic remains after 10 seconds of this.
But next morning, the magic still lingers.