Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Gig Review: Pavement - Tripod, Dublin, May 4th
The hero's welcome to end all hero's welcomes greets indie legends Pavement as they stride out onto an Irish stage for the first time in over a decade. It's the first night of their long-awaited European tour, this year's temporary reformation putting an end to years of fevered 'will they/won't they?' rumours. In short, gigs - and expectations - don't come much bigger.
Kicking off with the opening brace of tracks from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 'Silence Kid' and an excellent 'Elevate Me Later', it's immediately apparent that the group - who had a reputation for sloppy live performances throughout their career - are well-drilled and mean business. There really is no messing around tonight: over the course of their two-hour set, the band gleefully runs through thirty-odd choice cuts from a glorious back catalogue that remains one of the finest of any band past or present.
While no-one's going to claim money wasn't a driving force in their re-union, the natural bonhomie and good vibes on stage are clear: The lanky figure of Stephen Malkmus stands stage-right, laconically abusing his guitar and delivering his vocals with no little soul (particularly on a resplendent 'Gold Soundz'); Bob Nastanovich mills around the stage like a man half his age; Scott 'Spiral Stairs' Kannberg doffs his cap to the aviation authorities, while the permanently-cheery Mark Ibold takes centre-stage, fresh from his Sonic Youth moonlighting.
The highlights are many: the breezy sing-along of 'Shady Lane', the blissful alt-country lope of 'Father to a Sister of Thought' and 'Range Life', a rapturously-received 'Stereo', atmospheric renditions of 'Starlings in the Slipstream' and 'Grounded', a typically chaotic 'Unfair', the thrilling guitar climaxes on 'Fight This Generation' and 'Stop Breathin''...best of all, arguably, is 'In the Mouth a Desert' - not this fanboy's favourite Pavement song by any means, but tonight it sounds absolutely fantastic: sinister, ill-willed yet strangely anthemic.
There's two encores, and let's face it - with the calibre of material that didn't even make the set, they could have played into the early hours before anyone tired of it. There's maybe a couple of slight niggles: for a band whose unpredictability and sloppiness was part of their legend, there's times tonight where things seem just a tad clinical - 'Box Elder', for example, lacks the ragged lo-fi glory of its original incarnation. Also, and as important as Nastanovich is in the history of the band, I've never really abided his stage act - at times I was reminded of that sketch from Beavis and Butthead where the duo rip the piss out of some guy in a music video who runs around aimlessly and shoves his face into the camera because 'he left his drumkit at home'. Although it does seem to galvanise some of the chin-scratchers in the crowd.
But forget all that. Many of us wondered if this day would ever come. It has. Pavement are back, reminding us all of a halcyon time when a band could launch a thousand fanzines rather than a hundred tweets. Catch them while you can: we may never see their like again.