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POP MUSIC REVIEW

`Daydream' comes true

Sonic Youth performs its pioneering double album in its entirety for ecstatic fans at the Greek Theatre.

July 23, 2007|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

The land of nostalgia is a comfortable realm, and Sonic Youth fans were happy to be there Friday at the sold-out Greek Theatre, as the veteran art-rockers performed their groundbreaking 1988 double album "Daydream Nation" from start to finish.

Now available in a remastered, expanded deluxe edition, the collection is a reminder that the enduring music of an era isn't necessarily found among the pop hits, but may instead come from innovators whose appeal seemed limited at the time.

With "Daydream Nation" and earlier works, Sonic Youth laid a cornerstone of "alternative rock" at a moment when record-label suits and besotted critics were attempting to convince us that hair metal was significant. The New Yorkers fused such proto-punk influences as the Velvet Underground and the Stooges with its own Glenn Branca-influenced free-form style and simple melodies, creating a sound that launched 10,000 imitators but remained its own.

On Friday, guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, bassist Kim Gordon and drummer Steve Shelley did justice to the album that sealed their future legend as noisemakers nonpareil. They obligingly bent their heads over their instruments in concentration as great waves of sound and fury, and smaller ripples of subtle bliss, washed over the crowd. Yet as the players wailed, spoke and sang in turn, the tension coming from the stage felt deeper than the coiled-spring force behind such highlights as "Teen Age Riot," "Total Trash" and "The Sprawl."

It's fine to relive great moments, but there's something ironic, if not unseemly, about a group so devoted to its artistic vision cashing in on the current reverence for lost alt-rock treasures. More to the point, however, Sonic Youth is still making records 19 years later -- which may be why the dusty pyrotechnics of "Daydream Nation" felt curiously resolute. When the encore came to round out the two hours, the quartet was joined by an extra bassist for selections from last year's "Rather Ripped." And Sonic Youth burst happily out of the museum, a living, breathing band once more.

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