Left – Lee Ranaldo. Photo – Leah Singer
Lee Ranaldo is a gentleman. He fronts the stage looking a bit like someone's favourite uncle, with a slightly unruly silvery grey head of hair, and charms with an unprepossessing and appreciative manner, genuinely happy to play for you. The sentiment is worth returning: he's a pleasure to watch. He takes the time to introduce the band early in the set, and also names each song he's about to play, often providing some back story to its subject or conception.
Ranaldo was joined on stage here by fellow Sonic Youth'er Steve Shelley (drums) and Text of Light collaborator Alan Licht (guitar), amongst others, playing this Melbourne Festival gig in support of this line up's first album together, Between the Times and the Tides.
The tone of the evening was ably set by supporting act The Laurels (who, to these old ears, were favourably reminiscent of Ride) before Ranaldo started proceedings with "a couple of pop ditties". Although out front under the spotlight most of the evening, Ranaldo often times stepped back into the circle of the band to jam out a slice of noise with the other two guitarists. Hammer Blows was a highlight of the first half of the set, building from an understated, urgent strumming into a solid slab of feedback and noise, finishing on a strong percussive end courtesy of drums and thumped guitar.
The end of the gig drew near with the playing of a couple of covers, announced as a tribute to early musical influences, and included a fairly rocking version of Talking Heads' Thank You For Sending Me An Angel.
It was great to see an undoubted icon of alternative music (Ranaldo was recently anointed joint 'greatest guitarist of all time' by Spin magazine); even better to hear him exceed expectations.
Melbourne Festival presents
Supported by The Laurels
Venue: The Hi-Fi Melbourne | 125 Swanston Walk, Melbourne VIC
Dates: Wed 24 Oct 2012
Bookings: 1300 843 443