Stephen Malkmus, Glass Rock
Alex Nelson 09/12/2009
So, the time has finally arrived. The time to clap eyes on Stephen Malkmus in the flesh. The living, breathing embodiment of all things good and proper and indie in the world. As I make my way through the modest, shop front-like entrance of Camden's Electric Ballroom and down into the sprawling, high-contrast lighting of the mirror-lined main performance area, the excitement is practically palpable. And we are not disappointed.
Opening the night are Glass Rock, an amalgamation of dreamy folk-rock band Tall Firs and Detroit act Soft Location. Their music flows from arpeggiated folk leanings, all intertwining guitar lines and dream-pop vocals, to catchy alt riffs with ease, as Firs drummer Ryan Sawyer switches effortlessly between free-flowing improvisation and rhythmic pounding, and the band follow suit. Soft Location vocalist Kathy Leisen lends her delicate voice to the tracks as she nonchalantly strums her acoustic guitar, although Tall Fir's Aaron Mullan and David Miles take the vocal reigns on a handful of songs.
Next up, the main act. Bounding onto stage in a flurry of smiles and a rather fetching orange shirt, Stephen Malkmus leads his band through an extensive set, mostly covering new material but also drawing on old favourites and contemporary classics from latest album release Real Emotional Trash. The new material sounds a lot rockier and more pop oriented when compared next to the winding slacker solo jams of songs such as Hopscotch Willie and Dragonfly Pie, but it helps to maintain a constant punchy energy to the performance. Highlights include Post Paint Boy from 2005's Face The Truth, an extended version of Elmo Delmo as a set closer and a rousing rendition of Gardenia. The band are a constant joy to watch as they exchange knowing looks and smiles and genuinely look as if they are thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The band pepper their set with frankly some of the most entertaining stage banter I've heard in a long, long time, as Malkmus fiddles with tuning pegs and pedal settings ready for the next song. They touch on everything from which supermodels refuse to drink Evian ('I won't name names... these people have some fucking sick lawyers') to next year's Pavement reunion tour after an obligatory inappropriate song request from one fan ('you'll have to wait a lot longer for that… and pay a lot more money too…').
Unfortunately, I had to miss the encore due to time restrictions on the last train home, but if the running order of fan favourites Ramp Of Death, Jenny And The Ess-Dog and Baby C'Mon was joined with the energy and enthusiasm of the main set (which I'm sure it was), then it was likely to go down an absolute treat. Now I'm looking forward to Pavement next year!