Pavement - Tripod, Dublin
The first thing we hear from Pavement in Dublin is a bum note and a false start. Although deliberate, it's a good indication of what follows - an occasionally shambolic gig, full of scrappy versions of songs, some of which haven't aged particularly well. Songs performed by a band of men on the, ahem, "wrong" side of forty, fronted by a singer who looks so disinterested it's as if he's in detention, doing his best to get through it and back to doing something he might actually enjoy.
It's probably hard to believe, but this is kind of what we hoped for. Anyone expecting a fist-pumping, flag-waving return from this lot couldn't have been a real fan in the first place, surely. Pavement were a contrary prospect at the best of times, responsible for weird little songs, with loose guitar solos, indifferent vocals and nonsensical lyrics. The idea of these tunes being tightened up and performed flawlessly by a band giving their absolute eveything - well it just wouldn't work. It wouldn't be Pavement. So, with that in mind, this was a great gig. This was a Pavement gig.
Having said that, it's about four songs in (when they play Father To A Sister Of Thought) before a ludicrously packed Tripod remembers how this band roll and tune back into their wavelength. That done, we're happy to take on anti-pop popsongs like Rattled By The Rush and Shady Lane. We warm up in direct correlation with the band.
Malkmus only perks up for early gems like Trigger Cut, Debris Slide and In The Mouth A Desert, when he seems transported back to the days when Pavement were just a group of friends playing strange songs in a basement somewhere, but it hardly matters. Some of the finest Pavement moments belong to fellow vocalist Spiral Stairs (Date With Ikea, Two States) or are dominated by the screeches of Bob Nastanovich (No Life Has Singed Her providing a particularly high percentage), a (for the most part) less annoying prototype of that twit Penny from The Automatic. Steve West is doing his best to ape the antics of formative Pavement drummer Gary Young and Mark Ibold is as Mark Ibold always was - an oasis of calm and effortless cool stationed in the middle of the stage for the oddness to orbit around.
But enough about the band themselves, because Pavement is really about the tunes. Those wonderful, ramshackle slices of genius that leap across genres, octaves and time signatures, occupying a space somewhere in a musical venn diagram that includes pop, punk, country and jazz. Range Life is Pavement at their best - settled and romantic with some of Malkmus' best lyrics, Gold Soundz is as wistful and wonderful as ever, while Cut Your Hair is one of many songs where the riff is sung louder than the words by the adoring crowd. It's all building up to the riotous rendition of Stereo, unleashed during the first encore and neatly summing up everything that is great about this band. It's got the spikiest, messiest introduction before exploding into an insanely catchy chorus. They make sense from utter madness.
We Dance... is simply glorious and sweet, prompting Nastanovich to show us his moves with (we assume) his lady friend, before Box Elder takes us home. No new songs then - you could at times be forgiven for thinking they hadn't even practiced the old ones - just a few picks from a wonderful back catalogue. What constitutes a "glaring omission" will be discussed by 30-40 year old men outside the venue for at least an hour, but let's not even go there. Everyone has their own favourites, after all.
An odd one then. A stranger to their music could walk off the street and wonder why 1400 people are revelling in such a scrappy performance of random sounding songs. They'd call us all mad and you could understand why.
I guess you had to be there - 'there' being fifteen/twenty years ago, when all this noise made so much sense.