Thurston MooreHamer Hall seems a slightly strange venue to host a performance by one of the biggest names in alternative rock music. Funny, too, was the way it began: as the audience shuffled back in from intermission, house lights still on following support act Kieran Ryan's enjoyable set of talky, winding story-songs, Thurston Moore was already milling about on stage. A few hushed "is it him?" murmurings were heard until the lights dimmed, Moore picked up a guitar and the seated audience blurted out a surprised applause. Yes, it was him.

It was a low key start to a generally relaxed show, and an early indication of Moore's charmingly oddball behaviour. Jet lag excuses aside, Moore never quite seemed to know where he was or what was happening next, but his laid back manner and deadpan drawl seemed to smooth over any wrinkles - and made me a little bit suspicious it was a part of the act, if not the way of somebody remarkably comfortable on stage. Before playing a note, Moore decided to introduce the band, explaining in amusingly obsessive detail the troubles involved in bringing a concert harp on tour. His new band (the state of Sonic Youth being in question at the moment) is Chelsea Light Moving (harp, bass, drums and violin), and they were largely playing Moore's solo album back catalogue, especially Demolished Thoughts and Psychic Hearts (a shouted request for a Sonic Youth song from the audience drew a curt "we don't play covers" from Moore).

While he's known for furious electric guitar frequently edging into noise and feedback, the gig started acoustic, though Moore was happy to open out Orchard Street with an energetic strumming thrash session lasting as long as the song up to that point. Turns out his insistence on bringing the harp was well worth the effort. Sounding sometimes like piano, sometimes like chiming percussion, it punctuated the guitar riffs nicely or else echoed the tinkling trill often heard from the strummed bridge of Moore's guitar.

Heading toward the end the electric guitar did indeed make an appearance, and so did the noise. I Come to Get Wasted ended on a massive feedback grunch that, strangely, showed what a delicate slow dance it can be to generate sheets of noise like that - this was no crotch-anchored postured strutting. Moore ended up hugging his guitar tightly in the middle of this display which was, for me, reason enough to see the show. Still, there were a few grumblings to be heard afterwards that the whole performance just too relaxed a pace. Perhaps the intensity didn't quite match the Hamer Hall prices.

Melbourne Festival presents
Supported by Kieran Ryan

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall | 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC
Dates: Thu 25 Oct 2012
Tickets: $130.00 – $25.00
Bookings: 1300 182 183

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