On August 12, 2011 Sonic Youth played their final US show on an outdoor stage overlooking the East River at the Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn. Fitting that their storied career would bookend with a panoramic view of New York City where it all began 30 years before, having left in their wake one of one of the most powerfully influential careers in rock music.
Following incredible sets from Kurt Vile and Wild Flag, the band took the stage. As the sun went down over the city, Sonic Youth ripped through a 17 song set that spanned from deep cuts off their first studio album and highlighting many other albums all the way through to their last, like a band with everything to prove. Or as Brooklyn Vegan’s Andrew Sacher said at the time: “While most bands who are thirty years into their career are either fading away or living off of the nostalgia of their older material, Sonic Youth continue to sound and perform as fresh as ever.”
Steve Shelley explains the uniquely career spanning set list of Live in Brooklyn 2011 and how it came to be, as well as the importance of outdoor NYC summer shows in Sonic Youth’s legacy:
“This show was a culmination of a run of really special outdoor summertime shows in New York City for us, starting in ’92 with Summerstage in Central Park when we played with Sun Ra. For the Williamsburg Waterfront show I wrote out the set list to present to the band and it was a lot of material we hadn’t played in a while, a lot of deep cuts, so I wasn’t sure if everybody would feel like doing it. After worrying about which songs the band might say yes or no to, I threw those concerns out the window and I just made a list of songs that I thought would be a great set. We practiced the week of the show at our space in Hoboken and put the set together. First we’d try and make sure we had a guitar in the song’s tuning, then we’d try to remember the arrangement and try and put it together, sometimes re-learning bar by bar. In the end I think the whole song list made it through. Even as early as ’86 and ’87 we stopped playing ‘Death Valley 69’ and ‘Brave Men Run’ with any regularity. We’d just get excited about new material coming into the set and songs would get ‘retired’ and wouldn’t get played again for years. So on this particular night in Brooklyn a lot of those retired songs and deep cuts got dusted off and played for this show. It turned out to be a pretty special event with a really special song list.” The band would go on to fulfill a contracted festival run in South America a few months later but, by then, the group’s center was severed beyond repair and the festival appearances didn’t hold the same kind of weight.
“The stage was facing the East River from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn waterfront, and I recall the sun going down in the west during our set. It was a pretty magical, if kinda weird day. Fitting, somehow, that our ‘last show’ should be in New York City, our home and where it all began…” Lee Ranaldo
The Williamsburg Waterfront show would fondly become referred to as ‘The Last Show’ by fans and band alike, equally for its triumphant high energy performance, its unique and expansive set list and locale.
Newly remixed and remastered, Live in Brooklyn 2011 is presented for the first time on 2xLP, 2Xcd, August 18, 2023.
STAFF COMMENTSDarryl says: The legendary Sonic Youth played an historic gig on the Williamsburg Waterfront overlooking the East River on August 12th 2011. It would prove to be their final U.S. show, and this double vinyl and double CD on Silver Current Records perfectly captures this raw and expansive 85 minute set.
Heavy on songs from their early years Sonic Youth powered through these tracks like a band full of teenage energy. The fact that this show was their U.S. swansong after around 30 years together makes this blistering set all the more remarkable.
Kicking off with the hypnotic “Brave Men Run (In My Family)”, before exploding into the sensational noise carnage of “Death Valley ‘69”. Sonic Youth continue to rip through the set with 80s classics; “Kotton Krown”, “Kill Yr. Idols”, “Eric’s Trip” and the awesome “Tom Violence” all dispatched with visceral vigour and punky power.
Interspersed with three tracks from their last album ‘The Eternal’ along with a brilliantly brutal “Sugar Kane” they finish off proceedings with an apocalyptic version of “Inhuman” complete with feedback and wailing guitars and then it’s all over with the line “… with the power of love anythin’ is possible”.
1. Brave Men Run (In My Family)
2. Death Valley ’69
3. Kotton Krown
4. Kill Yr Idols
5. Eric’s Trip
6. Sacred Trickster
7. Calming The Snake
8. Starfield Rose
9. I Love Her All The Time
10. Ghost Bitch
11. Tom Violence
12. What We Know
13. Drunken Butterfly
15. Sugar Kane
16. Psychic Hearts