Pavement arrived fresh off the boat ready to kick off their European tour and they are accompanied by a sepia-tinged cloud of nostalgia which rolled in with the volcanic ash.
Earlier this year they released a ‘best of’ collection. In itself a fine record but it’s really just a random selection of songs from an immense canon of hits – it would be nigh on impossible to curate a collection of poor Pavement tunes. Quarantine the Past does exactly as the name suggests, it boxed off some classic moments from the band’s most important work, and this is fine as an introduction to the band, but captures little of the allure of these jesters of indie-rock.
In the early ’90s Pavement were an alternative to the alternative. They borrowed from The Replacements and Dinosaur Jr and moved in populist directions. They fucked off Mark E. Smith, they jeered at Billy Corgan, they seemed barely interested with lackadaisical performances and they did it all wearing cheeky smiles, brown corduroy and nice-boy haircuts. Pavement rocked. (It would be true to say that excitement levels were through the roof last night in Dublin’s Tripod.)
After a humorous false start they kick off with -Silence Kit’ – and it’s ropey. It’s worryingly messy, ramshackle and barely together. It’s exactly what we came to see. -Elevate Me Later’ raises some rapture and is a sight to behold. Pavement haven’t changed a bit. Maybe Malkmus looks a little jaded, though in fairness himself and Ibold endured some epic commuting to make the show, but as a band it’s like being back in Wowee Zowee times.
With the stage lit up like that of a U.S. prom night, it acts as a window to the past and present. A window giving a crystal clear view of a band that epitomise a moment in time and also the reflection of an alternate present, of an audience that never grew up.
The thundering punk of -Frontward’ and -Unfair’ has the house moshing, though maybe not with the same vigour as the lads on stage, as Bob Nastanovich leads with some elemental screaming. Scott Kannberg’s guitar is always spot on – he owns -Kennel Disctrict’, and it is melodic and enchanting. Steve West’s drumming and on stage hijinx are entertainment gold while Mark Ibold holds centre stage, bouncing along on bass with a grin that would light up any arena. These guys are loving it.
Then we have Stephen Malkmus. Malkmus remains stage-right for the night. His banter is minimal, mutterings at best. He looks typically unengaged – he looks like he’s just waiting to pick up the cheque. But then again that has always been his stance, this is what we love about him. Whether he wants to be there or not, the man is idolised. When he takes lead on -Rattled By The Rush’ or -Shady Lane’ it causes an elated sing-along. Apart from his guitar-playing, Malkmus’ genius lies in lyrics, he somehow manages to be ambiguous but quotable – and everyone has a favourite line. -Range Life’ on record is a country-tinged timeless classic, played live the tongue-in-cheek humour takes on another level.
It’s a Tuesday night after a long Bank Holiday weekend so there’s probably more chin stroking going on than pint swilling. Instead of bouncing off the walls the crowd are in bubbles of reminisce, soaking up personal anthems of cider-fueled and hash-hazed days; in particular there’s a blanket glaze-over for -Grounded’ and -Summer Babe’.
At times Pavement play with such slackness they practically stop, there are moments they are so slapdash their drumsticks and guitars could fall from their hands. They have always been the grade A students, but the smart alec type that teachers hate – the ones that are brilliant with no effort at all.
-Cut Your Hair’ provides the indie pop moment of the set but this band could bang them out for hours. They played 28, 29 maybe 30 songs, including a jaw-dropping double encore that even Malkmus seemed moved by. -Stereo’ and -Conduit for Sale’ ripped the place apart while -Here’ and -We Dance’ brought some poignancy (as well as some impromptu waltzing).
Pavement closed proceedings with -Box Elder’ as they sang ‘I got to get the fuck out of this town’, and with that they promptly did – but probably had to take the ferry.
Most reunion tours are a bad idea, usually nothing more than a transparent pension plan that may as well be sponsored by Murray Mints. But Pavement aren’t that long off the scene and their fans haven’t gone anywhere. Even if this is for no other reason than to line their pockets, well, they deserve every cent of it.
Photos by Colm Kelly.