Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Mersey Sound poetry anthology, Getintothis’ Matthew Wood witnesses The Thurston Moore Group and Mugstar join Tonight At Noon at St George’s Hall.
A red rope and some suited and booted security stand between us and the stairs to one of the many grand rooms within Liverpool’s majestic St George’s Hall. It all feels very civilised as a veteran crowd sip chilled wine under towering pillars and the watchful eyes of marble statues, waiting to see one of the heroes of avant-garde rock and a genuine lover of all things on the Mersey.
At last we’re allowed up the spiralling stairs to a quaint, charming room, lit by a great chandelier and fringed by a semi circle of red-velvet seats. We all take the opportunity to soak up the scenery as the room starts to fill and quite fittingly, tracks from The Liverpool Scene boom from the sound system.
Up first is a band formed in Liverpool, Mugstar, who promise copious amounts of sonic noise rock. The drummer tests the waters with a few fills and we’re assured that this is set be one mega loud set. They launch into their wall of sound approach without further ado and at once our very being falls to their submission. Monumental kraut-infused jams start to worry those under the chandelier, but it holds out, and the setting works wonders for such a set.
The four-piece work fantastically around their rhythm section as drummer, Steve Ashton begins to steal the show. His shifts in beat and creative drive carve a much needed structure amid the roaring mayhem, and the tracks peak and trough accordingly. Their third track sees them dabble in stoner doom influence before racing into a frantic desert-rock-tinged jam,
Ashton switches off his snare and propels the track into a rumbling nightmare beat. Vocalist Pete Smyth screams through the chaos, visceral and primitive, he yelps simultaneously to the heavens and hell, switching between guitar and synth, forever reaching new and astounding levels of meaty, tangible noise. It’s a phenomenal entrance and the laconic chaps depart the stage truly thankful and to a great reception from an ever increasing crowd. Now for the man of the hour…
After a rather lengthy delay, the supergroup enter the stage modestly, Moore frantically flicking through a pile of A4, seeking his lyrical prompts. But the set begins with a reading, from yep… you’ve guessed it: The Mersey Sound. It’s one thing hearing great poetry read aloud, but to hear it read by a figure such as Thurston Moore is something quite enchanting.
He reads Tonight At Noon by Adrian Henri, a poem of unrequited love and cynical humour in which he eloquently lists situations that reject worldly possibility: ‘Elephants will tell each other human jokes/ America will declare peace on Russia… The first daffodils of autumn will appear/When the leaves fall upwards to the trees’.
Now onto the music… Repetitive stabs of top frets open Ceasefire, James Sedwards laying down a riff that howls like a werewolf into the moonlight, before Moore’s fingers climb up his guitar and we’re met the thickest, grungiest pelting from his legendary Fender Jazzmaster. ‘Ceasefire! Ceasefire!’ he calls in his distinct tone, ‘can’t you see the kids are wired?’ at which point by far the youngest two in the crowd begin to jump up and down uncontrollably beneath their idol.
Each member of the band falls into their own form of energy, Deb Googe of My Bloody Valentine stomps stoically, starring out to the side of the stage, Sedwards stands proud, his appearance resembling that of Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men, though he smiles courteously between tracks, while their stand in drummer for Steve Shelley really comes into his own amid the manic experimental noise freak-outs.
The deluges of noise become more frequent and lengthy, and are perhaps a tad over-indulgent, but if anyone has earned his stripes regarding over-indulgent noise sessions, it’s Moore. Menacing squeals resound round the room as Moore approaches his amp for further parle in the avant-garde, often closing his eyes and soaking up the sonic blasts, as if restoring him to full health.
‘Let’s really get crazy here’ he adds, entering Smoker Of Dreams from his brilliant latest record, Rock n’ Roll Consciousness, followed by Aphrodite, which he dedicates to the goddess.
A further two readings from The Mersey Sound culturally bolster the set, the first from Robert McGough titled Comeclose and Sleepnow, and the third by Brian Patten titled Party Piece, to which some of the crowd sadly forget the purpose of the evening and rudely shout over him. It’s not enough to tarnish the performance though, and the rest of us implore for an encore.
A flawless rendition of Speak To The Wild marks their return to the stage; a beautifully crafted piece of music that only blossoms further in this live environment. Those crisp harmonics are lapped up by the crowd and it’s the biggest reaction of the night with bodies throbbing to the intricate guitar work and the driving force behind the drums.
Having never before witnessed a double-encore, it seemed so typical that it would arrive through Thurston Moore, forever a pioneer of rock and roll in its truest sense and relishing the opportunity to delve into his discography and treat us to Ono Soul taken from his debut solo record, Psychic Hearts.
It’s an historic ending to a night that will go down in history, particularly here on Merseyside, and tops off a momentous celebration of some of Liverpool’s finest creative minds of the 60’s. Bow down to the King of noise!