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'' 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.


  1. Were you the drummer last night? Because if you weren't then Malkmus was 'stage left' not 'stage right'! :-p

  2. "it's immediately apparent that the group - who had a reputation for sloppy live performances throughout their career - are well-drilled and mean business."

    I thought they took a good 30 minutes to hit their stride. Amd when they finally did, they were excellent in patches.

  3. Bob was awesome.

  4. Stage left is stage left no matter where you are.

  5. i always thought it's stage right or left from the perspective of the musicians!

  6. I agree about Bob, who did go over-the-top at times with his screaming & prancing about. It was cool when he brought the girl on for 'We Dance' though. Steve West also irritated with his attention-seeking outbursts though. And I agree with the guy above that they took a while to get going. Their 6th song, 'Rattled by the Rush', got it kick-started for me, followed by 'Shady Lane'. And I don't know about "the natural bonhomie and good vibes on stage" as Malkmus barely looked at, never mind spoke to, anyone but Ibold all night. This is definitely a once-off tour due to that. The other guys looked like they really enjoyed themselves though. Especially - as you said - Ibold; what a happy little chap.

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