live review: Thurston Moore and John Moloney, Belfast, 22nd January 2013

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Thurston Moore and John Moloney
Belfast the Stiff Kitten 22nd January 2013

I came to this show expecting an evening of difficult noise jams and relentless guitar and drums improvisation. After 90 varied and rambling minutes I left feeling like I just been to “An Evening With Thurston Moore.”

He is still instantly recognisable with his boyish mop of hair, as he takes the stage late because he “got lost” as it had been a while since he had “last walked these streets”. He isn't just full of idle chatter as eyewitness reports from earlier say that he bought “a lot” of vinyl in the city's small independent Dragon Records.
I'm unaware of him being in Belfast since the night in September 1990 when Sonic Youth were playing a set at the Art College, supported by a very youthful Teenage Fanclub. Unfortunately a few weeks earlier at a Warrior Soul show at the same venue someone had died in a fall from the stage, and the overly cautious stage security for the Sonic Youth gig raised the hackles of the band to such an extent that it was reported that they would never return. This could be true, as they never did.

However Thurston and John Moloney – himself last sighted in Belfast in the Pavilion bar behind the drums for Six Organs of Admittance – are here at the end of a short Irish tour, in their guise as the Caught on Tape duo. During this tour they have played varied sets, including a complete set of improvised noise at a folk club in Clonakilty and a “scary” gig at a 50 capacity venue in Limerick. Quite why they did this tour remains unclear, though at one point Moloney reveals a tattoo of his coat of arms , and a limited edition fanzine that Thurston produced for the tour has drawings of both their family crests (Moloney's is a quiver and Moore's is a “glam lion” as he describes it.)
Maybe they're on a heritage trail – who knows? One thing is for sure, they are having fun!

Thurston talks for ten minutes when he takes the stage before he strikes a note, utterly charming and at ease, praising John T Davis's semi-legendary Northern Irish punk documentary Shellshock Rock and rambling off at tangents. He also talks a lot about the recently deceased Irish poet Dennis O'Driscoll, although he stops short of reading his work because he hasn't brought any to the stage, This show is improv in a way I didn't expect!

Musically they mix it up a little. There are a couple of extended noise jams, some songs from their new band Chelsea Light Moving, and a chunk of material from Thurston's first full solo album 'Psychic Hearts'. Its title track and a CLM tune called 'Burroughs' were the most memorable of the night. He even teases that he will do a cover of the Outcasts 'Love is for Sops' when he comes back to Belfast.

The real highlight though, was seeing Thurston's guitar set-up and style of playing at such close range in this intimate setting. Seemingly minimal pedal use and the special effects came from tweaking amp and jacks to create buzz and crackle. Also, in contrast to Sonic Youth and their racks of guitars, he used only one guitar for the whole set. In a way, these sounds aren't far removed from the likes of 'Justice is Might' from the mid-80s. However, many years later, up close and away from the juggernaut of a big rock tour, it was an absolute pleasure to hear them.

If you wish to hear 'Burroughs' by Chelsea Light Moving, click here

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