Is there any better big venue live band these days than Sonic Youth? Okay, maybe Radiohead, maybe Phish, and maybe—depending on how their Madison Square Garden debut goes this week—even Arcade Fire. (Yes, we just used Phish in the same breath as Sonic Youth; the crucifixion line forms on the right!) But none of those bands possess Sonic Youth's illustrious history, or restless dynamism, or reckless edge. Frontman Thurston Moore is middle age (his wife/bandmate Kim Gordon's even older!) but after seeing them crush the Celebrate Brooklyn bandshell in Prospect Park Saturday night, it's clear that their particular blend of punk-pop-noise rock is some sort of magical, anti-aging elixir that ought to be bottled and sold worldwide. Don't grow old gracefully; shred it every step of the way with Tonic Youth.

The weather was simply sublime Saturday night, and the park quickly filled up to capacity during opening sets from Talk Normal (MySpace) and the melodically charming all-female trio Grass Widow (MySpace). Sonic Youth strolled onstage ten minutes late and without Mark Ibold (who's been temporarily reassigned to his old band Pavement). But they work just fine as a quartet, and there were smiles all around between Moore, Gordon, and ever-stellar guitarist Lee Ranaldo as the opened with Candle, from their seminal album Daydream Nation. They setlist heavily favored that one, although the album's most identifiable hit, Teenage Riot, remained conspicuously on the bench. Which was fine by us, because they topped off the three-song encore with Expressway to Yr Skull (on the heels of a blistering Silver Rocket)—an immensely satisfying sonic squall about "the meaning of feeling good."

No mention of this magnificent evening would be complete without bowing down before the sweaty, impossibly energetic talents of drummer Steve Shelley, who attacked his kit all night long with a ferocity that made the Tasmanian Devil look like Al Bundy. Moore dedicated The Wonder to "all my Manhattan homegirls," but we'd like to dedicate our blown minds to Shelley, who made the bandshell go supernova Saturday night. Set list and Big Ass Lens's video of Silver Rocket below:

Sonic Youth - Silver Rocket - Live in Prospect Park from Big Ass Lens on Vimeo.

Sonic Youth at Celebrate Brooklyn Prospect Park Bandshell July 31st, 2010 Set list:
Candle
Brother James
Catholic Block
Stereo Sanctity
Hey Joni
Sprawl>
Cross The Breeze
The Wonder>
Hyperstation
White Cross
Mote
Shaking Hell

Encore: Shadow of a Doubt
Silver Rocket
Express way to your Skull