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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Guitar lessons with Lee Ranaldo

Lee Ranaldo (+ Murnau B).  La [2] de Apolo, Barcelona, April 24th.

Ranaldo in BCN. Photo: Bloobuzzed
Spring is always the best time for live music. April its been a month  pretty full of gigs and May looks, happily, even busier in that sense (Primavera Sound is just around the corner, folks). Past Wednesday it was my second chance watching live a veteran stage legend, that to me is a recent discovery. I'm referring to Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth's guitarist, responsible of one of my favourite records from last year, "Between the Times and the Tides".

Murnau B. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Ranaldo's gig was supported by local band Murnau B, an instrumental trio aiming to create dense, cinematic and dark no-wave tunes. They sounded solid and fierce, but this is just a matter of taste I guess. To me every tune was too similar to the previous one (only exceptions the couple helped by keyboards), a bit grunge, and sorry to say, pretty boring. In my opinion.

But then Lee Ranaldo took the stage. It wasn't going to be a surprising gig, and we quickly realise that, once again La [2] de Apolo was going to frustrate our aspirations of enjoying a great sounding performance. Instruments were crystal clear, but Ranaldo's vocals were pretty average. I can't really understand why there's such a huge difference in what regards to sound quality between the two Apolo rooms.

Steve Shelley. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Guitar heroes. Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Having complained about that, the gig was almost flawless. Ranaldo and his band were amazing, and the whole place vibed with the heavily-charged electric tension propelled by guitars (Ranaldo was backed by Alan Licht and Tim Luntzel) and Sonic Youth Steve Shelley's relentless drumming. Songs like the shiny "Off the Wall" or "Lost" are priceless, and played with that level of intensity live, they inoculated euphoria on the listener. The veteran musician combined this more straightforward pieces with angular, longer and more oblique rock pieces, like "Xtina As I Knew Her" or "Shout". Ranaldo makes me think about R.E.M.'s "Document" era or their most abrasive, rockier tunes. I even hear traces of Stipe vocals on Ranaldo's way of singing. That, combined with his skills, a gentle little chat there, and a a bit of show with his guitars (that couple of moments destroying the strings playing the instrument as if it was a violin) made the night absolutely remarkable. Guitar lessons with a maestro.
Up & close. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Ranaldo and his band weren't shy to offer new tunes (a couple of them sounded really exciting) plus a cover of The Byrds "Everybody's Been Burned", written by David Crosby, and when the time came for the end, with the majestic finale of "Waiting On a Dream", after a generous hour and half gig, the overall feeling was easy to define: total satisfaction. Even despite not having the best sounding.    

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