Having missed the boat for the Broken Social Scene show at Heaven and only thinking too late for the Pavement reunion shows in London @binmouth rode to the rescue with a spare ticket for this show at the Brixton Academy, the of the three sold out nights, what a generous Bat he is!
Despite being a Pavement fan (how many hours did I spent downloading tracks through the dial up connection?) and their now legendary influential role on so many bands, if I am absolutely honest it was BSS that I really wanted to hear. Having only seen them once before in February 2006 as one of the early gigs with the Lad in the grubby Academy 2 in Birmingham, I was eager to hear them again and see if they can pull off their shambling, euphoric sound.
The forty minute or so set was like a musical drive by shooting, almost no pause for breath, no let up, only one ’ballad’ type song, a great mix of the new album and sparkling moments from earlier albums. The band, at various times six, seven or eight people, seemed buzzing, swapping instruments, a bit of leaping around, little or no banter as they ‘crashed’ through a high energy set (and the drummer – just how good is he?) How much do I love this band? Loads. Buried sometimes a little deep in the songs are hooks that once they get you don’t let go, the controlled chaos of the sound is a joy to behold. Best songs? Well maybe World sick the opener, Forced to Love and of course 7/4 Shoreline and Fire Eye’d Boy not to mention the closer Meet Me in the Basement. Cannot wait to see them headline in Birmingham in June – magnificent.
The stage set for Pavement with their two drummer station and Steve Malkmus positioned to one side, his monitors carefully creating a private space for himself, they arrived to some considerable enthusiasm. There has always been a wonderful thickness to the Pavement sound, something that many have tried to replicate (the insider view from @binmouth is that they mostly play chords rather than notes – I bow to his superior knowledge!). Well whatever, but that ‘thickness’ is there live as well. I have to say they sounded fantastic, good and tight, vocals up in the mix for a change and they cracked through the set. Whilst being a lover of the extended musical form there is something very satisfying about the three minute song – it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Malkmus played the fool, playing his guitar in strange positions, wheeling it around, smacking the headstock on the ground – as @binmouth commented, this stuff was all way too easy for him. But on a couple of occasions we got to hear a bit more of his guitar playing ability – tantalising stuff, more would have been very welcome. As if we didn’t know for a band that so obviously doesn’t get on like they once might have (well Mr Malkmus anyhow), this collection of reunion shows is as much about fund raising as anything, something they obliquely referred to doing one of the inter-band banter sessions. But that said the set was barnstorming and a timely reminder of the quality of their writing and playing, they set a high bar which many others still fail to leap.
They also delivered a long set, on at nine and finishing their second encore set when I left at just about eleven (including the giant bouncing balloons) – would have been surprised if they didn’t come back for a third time but I wasn’t there to see it. Great stuff indeed and a real sense that this must likely be the last time this band will be playing like this, now in their late 30’s (or for Malkmus, 43) and engaged with other projects.
A quality evening and a privilege to see one legendary band turn in an astonishing set supported by another great, soaring band.