Pavement Hit the Pavement
Sometimes you wait forever for some long-hoped for event to happen, and then when it happens you wish it hadn’t because of the unbearable bubble-burst and ballyhoo-bust. Well I’ve been waiting for 18 years to see this band and hear these songs live, and Pavement didn’t in the least disappoint, but instead delivered on decades of unrealistically heightened expectation and anticipation. And they did it with a generous 31 songs. Huge.
We arrived at 9pm just in time to catch the last few songs of surprising opening band, Middle East, from Australia. They finished with a beautiful, 6-part harmonized, trumpet- and banjo- augmented, Arcade-Fire-esque song, and are worthy of keeping track of based solely on this finale. Highly recommended.
After a short break, Malkmus, Spiral Stairs, Bob and band sauntered onto the stage above which was a halo/helix of country-fair lights. And off they went. From Silence Kit all the way through to Hexx and two long ensuing encores ending in Conduit, the band exceeded my expectations. The songs early in the set were slightly ragged and slapdash, but the band just kept gathering momentum, energy and tightening as the set went on. Too dang good.
About 7-8 songs in I noticed that my face was aching from the involuntary smile pasted on wide.
Malkmus started off feigning some disinterest and somnambulism, but every time he stepped to the mike any ennui fell aside and he sang the songs in earnest, like they deserved. Scott was all smiles and came to the mike with a slightly different approach that smacked of wisdom and growth, but lacked some of the prior verve and upper register. Bob was perfectly over the top, whether as part of the dual-drum attack, or with his brandished cowbell, harmonica, zither, or when accompanying with sating screams and hardy-har-harmony vocals. And on Unfair, Bob delivered, hands down, the best Johnny Rotten imitation seen in the new millennium (including, sadly, Mr. Lydon’s recent PIL performances, as goulishly compelling as they may be). Bob he ranted on Unfair of the siphoning by the south (as the south sang along). “Shake your nachos like you just don’t care!!” Indeed. And underneath and behind, the Steve and Mark rhythm section swung well in support.
While we’ve enjoyed much of the post-Pavement Malkmus (with and without Jicks) ouevre and shows, the later, jammy, blues-ish offerings have lacked the original spark. And what tonight reaffirmed is that Malkmus has always been primarily about the songs (well and that gifted guitar madness) and lyrics. Malkmus tosses off alternatingly poignant and hilarious lines that embed in your head for decades. The pathos of “caught my father crying,” “epileptic surgeons with their eyes x’ed out attend to the torn up kid,” “when they rise up in the falling rain,” “i was dressed for success but success it never comes,”and “starlings in the slipstream” are leavened by the bathos of “a redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash” and “darlings on the split-screen.” And the melodies alternatingly sing you and jar you, but are always inventive and often imbued with a math-jazz-blues motif.
But you probably knew that already.
We end with a plea: Dear Stephen, we hope you (and each Pavement member) find anew the interest and affection for more of the Pavement-esque songsmithing and delivery, and leave the jamming to Phish and the other phops.
Many of the song highlights of the evening were as expected, but I was reminded of the weight and worth of Hexx, Stop Breathin’ and Here.
Can’t wait for the Greek in Berkeley on June 25th.
Ell Ess Two
Give It A Day
No Life Singed Her
Father to a Sister of Doubt
Rattled by the Rush
In The Mouth A Desert
Spit On A Stranger
Fight This Generation
Cut Your Hair
Date With Ikea
Starlings in the Slipstream
Zurich Is Stained