Monday, September 20, 2010

Pavement Played Agganis Arena: Video, Review

Sure, we know Pavement is coming to New York for four nights in Central Park this week, but we just got a little impatient. As such, we decided to head up the coast and check out the band's set in Boston at Agganis Arena. The set was undeniably solid, and had everything an old school Pavement fan could want. That being said, we found ourselves questioning whether the reunion was the best thing for all involved.

The show was unquestionably geared towards fans of the band's older material. The setlist drew primarily upon earlier material, with heavy emphasis put on the first three records. While it was exciting, no, thrilling, to hear some of these songs live (our heart raced at the first notes of "Grounded"), it was also a bit of a let down to hear Brighten The Corners be so seriously underrepresented.

In some ways, it seemed that the fans weren't the only ones on a nostalgia trip. While Malkmus was his usual dynamic, incredible, amazing self, the enthusiasm on stage from Spiral Stairs and Bob Nastanovich seemed at times over the top, and often detracted from the music itself. Spiral Stairs seemed to be in a hallucinatory state where the show was all about him, basking under an oddly placed spotlight, even when Malkmus was taking the lead on a tune. More often that not, Nastanovich was jumping around stage like a freed monkey, trampling Malkmus' vocals with incomprehensible shouts. Sure, we know they're friends, but is this really considered a good thing for the band?

Which isn't to say that the show didn't have it's highlights: hearing any of these songs live is a treat we thought we'd never get to indulge in, so every moment is something of a win. Moreover, the band was definitely tight. We had heard rumors from back in the day of Pavement failing to deliver about 50% of the time when it came to live shows. Whether it's that we got lucky, or that they're simply well rehearsed, the fact is that they hammered through the set like well versed pros.

The other piece of the puzzle that was unquestionably awesome was the onstage dynamic between Stephen Malkmus and Mark Ibold. The idea of a Pavement reunion was (apparently) hatched when these two were chatting at a music festival, and Ibold is notable as the only member of the band that's had real musical accomplishment (as a member of Sonic Youth) since leaving Pavement.

On stage, the two of them clearly were enjoying being in the groove together, and we have to admit that they were the one facet of the show that actually seemed to be creating a genuine moment. At times, When Kannberg and Nastanovich would leave the stage, Ibold and Malkmus (along with drummer Steve West) would combine to make the best fucking Pavement three piece you've ever heard. We have to admit that if it were up to us, these three guys would have taken over for the bulk of the show.

So, did we love seeing Pavement live? For sure. Did we love it as much as we thought we would? Not really. The combination of huge venues, a bizarre stage dynamic, and a bit of a "revue" vibe, left us feeling like we watching less of a genuine concert, and much more of an ephemera piece. Which, when it comes down to it, is exactly what it is. Malkmus has held fast that this isn't a permanent reunion, and when you think about that, there's only one conclusion to come to: Overly contrived or not, you know you want to see yourself some Pavement, so enjoy it while you can.


wyrostekindustries said...

I like your review. I was at the show. I have one comment. You state that Mark Ibold is the only member of the band who's had real musical accomplishment "as a member of sonic youth" since leaving pavement. Sonic youth is among my very favorite bands, and I agree, they are very "accomplished". However, have you not heard any of Stephen Malkmus's solo albums? He's had four. And I can't understand why anyone who likes Pavement doesn't love them. They are fantastic, and Malkmus shows himself to be an extremely accomplished guitarist and songwriter on them. No?

hippiesaredead said...

Totally agree. Thought it was implicit that we're in love with SM...if not, hope its clear now.