Friday, September 24, 2010

I wrote about Pavement for a class

We had to write a review of something for the class, so I naturally jumped on the opportunity to write about a concert. I had to follow a very specific format, so it's not exactly what I would have written given complete freedom, but I thought I'd share it regardless.

Pavement @ the Agganis Arena 9/18

Pavement emerged from Stockton, California in 1989 among a plethora of other disaffected Gen-X bands. As their grungier contemporaries were yelling, making statements, and acting generally angsty, Pavement, however, simply opted to not care. From the sloppy, fuzzed-out guitar work to Stephen Malkmus’s monotone talk-singing, everything about the band suggested utter apathy. This indifference towards the world continued throughout their career, evidenced events like their walk-off during a 1995 Lollapalooza performance and Malkmus’s refusal to sing at Coachella 1999. But, as the band proved with a recent performance at Boston’s Agganis Arena, with their recent reunion has come a new attitude: the guys clearly give a damn this time around.

And they don’t just care about themselves: the effort they put into the set suggests a genuine concern for the fans. People are quick to accuse reuniting bands of only getting back together for easy money, but Pavement’s intention seems to be geared toward pleasing as many of their followers as possible. While fellow reuniters Pixies have toured essentially the same hour and fifteen minute set every night for the last year, Pavement creates a unique two hour set list for each performance, switching deep cuts in and out while rotating the positions of their catalogue’s cornerstones. Though leaning heavily on their 1991 debut Slanted and Enchanted, the Boston set spanned their career. Whether it was the quasi-sentimental alt-rock ballad “Here” or the falsetto strut of “Brinx Job,” Pavement offered something for fans of each of the band’s stylistic phases. Die-hard devotees appreciated obscure non-album tracks like the sloppy guitar jam “Heckler Spray” from Pavement’s early EP Perfect Sound Forever, while casual concertgoers still got to hear classics like “Cut Your Hair.” The Agganis Arena is a decently large venue, but Pavement made sure no one left the stadium without hearing a bunch of songs they wanted.Shockingly enough, it wasn’t just the audience having a good time.

Among the pleasant surprises of the night, one is more or less universally agreed upon—Stephen Malkmus is very obviously having a blast. He dances, he stomps, he jams, he smiles. Notorious for refusing to allow co-songwriter Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg to contribute any songs to the band’s last album, Malkmus oddly enough ends up shaking his ass to the Kannberg-led “Kennel District” more than any other tune. Even when he shoots a glance at the sound guy and mimes hanging himself (a reference to the venue’s frustratingly poor acoustics), the laugh that follows indicates it’s in good humor. The gesture even comes across as charming.

And despite attempts to divert attention from himself (he’s positioned far to stage right; percussionist Bob Nastanovich handles the crowd-banter duties), Steve can’t help but come off as the clear leader. Perhaps it’s the irresistible ease with which he operates on stage: when he goofs around while jamming, when he plays with the lyrics, any time he strays from what the audience expects, Malkmus adds a delightful spontaneity to the performance.

Despite the thrill, the joy, and the enthusiastic reception, Pavement has reported that this tour is to be a one-off affair. No new albums or future tours have been scheduled. In a post on their record label’s blog, a writer explicitly states, “Please be advised this tour is not a prelude to additional jaunts and/or a permanent reunion.” Perhaps the members worry that the bad feelings will arise again if they spend too much time together. Perhaps they really prefer their solo endeavors. Or perhaps it’s the fact that bands that peaked long ago tend to fade into irrelevance rather than reclaim any former glory. A new batch of Pavement albums could actually cheapen the sanctity of their original, acclaimed run. And if they were to not put out new music, at what point would they cease to be triumphant homecomers and turn into old men milking their past success? One victory lap might be enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment