Whelan’s, Dublin ****
It isn’t often you get to see one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time in such close proximity, but here he is: Thurston Moore, tall, gangly and, at the age of 54, still rocking the ineffably cool teenage slacker look of plaid shirt, ripped jeans, Converse runners. He makes mild fun of Led Zeppelin, and of plugging his albums-for-sale – “Um, well, they’re over there at the Merch Destroy table, but I know how you feel about that” – yet feels keen satisfaction in not only distributing his own makeshift fanzine at the gig but also paying tribute to recently deceased Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll.
Now that Sonic Youth, the US band that he co-founded more than three decades ago, is on an indefinite hiatus, Moore is once again indulging his inner collaborative spirit by touring with Irish/American drummer John Maloney (of improv band Sunburned Hand of the Man). Moore is well used to working outside Sonic Youth’s abrasive, influential remit, and the guitarist is known for his experimental/improvisational side projects. This particular one, which operates under the moniker of Chelsea Light Moving, is yet another reason to admire his work.
If there are touchstones to what follows, they might be a combination of what Moore’s instincts incline toward – Wire’s odd-pop melodies; The Fall’s awkwardness;experimental techniques learnt while toiling more than 30 years ago in avant-garde artist Glenn Branca’s electric-guitar orchestras – and what drummer Maloney brings to the arty party – empathy, intuition, and playing that is equally at home with expressive soft rolls and militiaristic tattoos.
The result is that most unusual of things: groovy, locked-in rock/post-rock improvisation, delivered with skill, passion and irony. “Look at me,” says Moore at one point, “a pretentious, elitist dilettante.” Don’t believe a word – this dude is as real a deal as they come.