Kim Gordon live: the weird experience of seeing a bonafide rock icon play a (sort of) debut gig

41 years into her career, somehow this still feels new

There can’t be many more experienced musicians currently making their debut UK tour than Kim Gordon. After all, she spent the first 30 years of the past 40 fronting one of the most groundbreaking rock bands of its generation, and the subsequent ten performing in collaboration with all sorts, from free-improv noise musicians to avant garde performance artists. But only now, in mid-2022, 41 years after the first Sonic Youth gig and two after these shows were originally scheduled, does Gordon take the stage as a solo musician in her own right.

And while that ‘debut’ status is, on the one hand, only a technicality, on the other it’s also a palpable vibe tonight, where a combination of nerves, apprehension and awkward silences add a topnote of discomfort to the first half of the show: despite the proficiency of Gordon’s three-piece band, who add fierce groove and offer a perfect springboard for such a usually magnetic frontwoman, she flounders, seemingly gripped by her lyric book propped up on a stand in front of her, and slightly unsure of what to do with her hands.

Five songs in, though, things ignite on ‘Don’t Play It’, when she dares to engage with KOKO’s adoring front row, and ‘Cookie Butter’, straight after, carries a slink and menace before descending into walls of shimmering, simmering noise within which Gordon finally seems able to finally commit to her own gig. It marks a turning point, and that she departs barely ten minutes later is tantalising.

A far more ferocious encore, including a scabrous interpretation of DNA’s ‘Blonde Redhead’ and a valedictory ‘Grass Jeans’, which culminates in Gordon passing her guitar into the audience, climbing on her amps and manipulating the accompanying feedback, feels far more in the Gordon performance zone – and indeed in the spirit of her debut album – all proper bolshy art music with no compromise. While that record felt like it arrived fully formed, obstinate and and relentless and thrilling, its stage companion is, by contrast, still finding its feet. The moments that burnt brightly tonight, however, combined with a performer of Gordon’s pedigree, hint that the performance incarnation shouldn’t be too far behind.

Photography by Adam Taylor