New York Sidewalk End Stand with Deep Diving Set: Concert Review

Back in the day (“the day” was the 1990s), Pavement was so typified as a cliche anti-rock band that they never really got any credit for what a great rock band they were — and as their ongoing 30th-ish anniversary tour shows are it still.

The stereotypical, arid, literal indie vibe and image of the group’s early records had become so entrenched that few seemed to notice how tight and accomplished they became after drummer Steve West joined the group in 1993. Although they always “downplayed” their ability to “rock off,” and still do, as the band settle into hypnotic grooves while vocalist/guitarist Stephen Malkmus plays solos with a Lou Reed-esque combination of soaring melodies and brittle squalls ( usually ends with a self-deprecating gesture), they can hold their own with virtually any rock band. On their later albums, that zest carried over to their songwriting, as Malkmus’ almost overflowing melodies were delivered cleaner and sharper, as if he were no longer so embarrassed by how pretty or catchy they can be.

Stephen Malkmus (Photo: Jake Whitener)

And although their current tour – their second reunion trek after one in 2010 – consists entirely of songs drawn from their 1989-1999 recorded career, the group has spared little effort to keep things fresh: For this four- The night stand in town that had long been their base, the group shuffled the setlists at each show, playing between 25 and 30 songs in just under two hours on four consecutive nights. No wonder Malkmus took a long gulp of water mid-set, saying, “I just drank the water like a dog after a hot walk – after four nights you get a little hoarse.”


It seems they’re trying to play virtually their entire discography on tour: the band – who have opened with a different song on almost every set of the tour – kicked off with “Grounded” from 1995’s “Wowee Zowie” and the setlist included almost the entire album and the following one, Brighten the Corners from 1997 – but strangely zero songs from their last album Terror Twilight. They played “AT&T” for the first time in 12 years that night, according to Trainspotters on social media. (By contrast, the first evening drew heavily on early material.)

They didn’t hold back on their classics either: “Gold Soundz” was released early in the set, and the encore included “Range Life” and of course the rockist-taunting “Cut Your Hair,” which had many middle-aged fists pumping at the “No big hair!” Line.


(Photo: Jake Whitener)

And yes, they still resist rockism. Malkmus remains the anti-frontman – he was always positioned on the far left of the stage, while bassist Mark Ibold hops in the middle – but his voice is in tip-top shape, and after keeping banter to a minimum in the first half, the set reeled he drops a few of his inimitable, profound asides. After the group played the Fall-esque “Two States” and guitarist Scott Kannberg (aka Spiral Stairs) said, “We listened to the Fall just before we got on stage!” Malkmus quipped, “Yeah, the Fall in the autumn … [‘80s hardcore band] Rites of Spring in the spring…um, Sumner Redstone in the summer?” he said, referring to the late TV mogul.

And as counterintuitive as it might have felt to some veteran fans — let’s face it, this crowd was almost entirely veteran fans — playing this band as middle-aged men (accompanied by Rebecca) in a lavishly ornate venue like Brooklyn’s Kings Theater (See Cole, formerly of Wild Flag, on keyboards, percussion and backing vocals), Pavement really delivered. Hopefully it won’t be another 12 years before they hit the stages together again.

blank New York Sidewalk End Stand with Deep Diving Set: Concert Review

Charles Jones

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