‘We’re going to play a song now, but it doesn’t really end, so we might be here a while.’
Thurston Moore takes the slightly unusual route of introducing the band and having a quick chat with the audience before a single note of music is even played, because as he admits, there may not be another chance.
Moore is a legendary figure in alternative rock for his part in Sonic Youth – the New York band that managed to straddle the worlds of rock and the avant-garde for three decades – and so The Wedge is packed out for this Sunday evening show.
This song is Alice Moki Jayne, from his new album Spirit Counsel.
READ MORE: Thurston Moore tells all about how his new album came together
Starting with a throbbing, pulsing electronic noise, courtesy of Jon Leidecker, and drummer Jem Doulton playing purely on the cymbal, it’s a slow build. Moore stands stage right, eyes closed, gently swaying, finally entering on guitar with a motif that reappears several times throughout what follows.
There are periods of calm, there are passages of full-on rock-riffing, and there is a real sense of ebb and flow as the piece progresses.
Guitarist James Sedwards is Moore’s foil – the former watching closely for his cues, matching Moore blow for blow.
Bassist Deb Googe is more than used to holding her own amid the squalling sound – her regular gig is with My Bloody Valentine.
And Leidecker's electronics add texture and further abrasive edges
For the last quarter of an hour or so, things get really intense. There is wild improvisation and feedback ultimately becomes the instrument of choice, escalating until it reaches a threshold that is too much for some.
But then, again, there is the moment of release and Moore brings it all right back down.
After 70 minutes, it’s done, and after brief uncertainty as to whether it’s actually finished, there’s lengthy cheering and demands for an encore – which never comes.
By Moore’s standards this is about as accessible as it gets.
It’s never going to be in the proverbial ‘whistled by the milkman’ bracket, but there is melody and prettiness to be found amid the controlled chaos.
And it is an awesome experience.