Toronto Warehouse

Close game - Love to see a rematch...

Forget Euro 2000 - tonight's concern is the battle of the art pop royals, with Stereolab and Sonic Youth duking it out for post-rock primacy. Sonic Youth fans choke the room, but as Stereolab are making up for a cancelled winter gig, 'Lab fans have been buzzing out of their skins in anticipation.

Unfortunately for Stereolab, an early start (much of their audience is still outside, getting frisked by staff doughheads) makes for a less-than ideal kick-off. The group parries on for the sober crowd nonetheless. Entranced, Tim Gane shakes his head from side-to-side, taking 'Metronomic Underground' to new heights of guitar freakiness (take that, Thurston), while vocalists Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen dextrously weave through 'Op Hop Detonation'.

Still, it isn't until the pulsing oldie, 'The Seeming And The Meaning', and the droning,Steve Reich-influenced 'Blue Milk' (featuring a bit of lefty guitar from Sadier) that Stereolab really start chugging. By now, the crowd is tightly focused upon the stage, despite the lack of visual action. Alas, there is only time for one more - the goofy 'Outer Bongolia' - and with barely a word, they're off. Stereolab, one, Sonic Youth nil.

Sonic Youth aren't looking as youthful as they did back in '83, but they're up for a challenge, and even bring pal Jim O'Rourke along as third guitarist. The crowd's finally getting looser too, screaming madly as Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon jaunt onstage. "We've got a bit of new wave to play tonight," the spirited Moore exclaims, launching into 'Schizophrenia', while a film of New York street scenery flashes behind him.

Though the Sonics lack the groove propulsion of Stereolab, their dynamics and spacy, dissonant shrieking are unmatchable. Guitarist Lee Ranaldo has the best voice of the lot, and offers an evocative version of 'NY Ghosts and Flowers'. Yet, it's gravel-throated Gordon's gem, 'Kool Thing', that brings out the most fan reverence. Putting down her bass so she can dance (about the first time Kim's moved all night), a thousand girls suddenly wish they were her, while an equal number of boys strain to suppress maternal fantasies.

There are other highlights - the trumpet, the ironic rock moves, the drumstick/string bending gag, the countless guitar changes (they must need a separate bus for all of them). But it's still Gordon's winning goal that saves the day for this group. Sonic Youth 2, Stereolab, 1.

Close game, though. Love to see a rematch.

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