Pavement, Broken Social Scene
Steven Morgan 13/05/2010
With all the different support bands taking their prestigious place warming up for Pavement, I think to land Broken Social Scene was pretty damn lucky. I mean, no offence to the other support bands on the other nights, but to find out that you're getting Broken Social Scene as a support act is like buying an ice cream and getting the van thrown in with it. Speaking of which, have you ever seen an ice cream man's legs? I have not.
So there I was, walking into the cavernous slopey arena that is (now) the O2 Brixton Academy, that the now relatively streamlined line-up of Broken Social Scene were belting through a number from their latest album. I'll confess, I haven't had a chance to listen to Forgiveness Rock Record yet, so for me, moments like 7/4 Shoreline and Cause = Time were the ones that elicited natural excitement though the newer tracks did make me want to rectify my listening delay post haste. The intricate guitar play between the abundance of multiples of six strings on stage is muddied through the natural echoing from the acoustics of the venue, diluting the more tender moments. Seeming to anticipate this, the set focused mainly on the upbeat numbers forsaking moments like Lover's Spit. Unless they played Lover's Spit just before I got inside, in which case I will be most unhappy indeed. It was a short yet excellent set, with a few comments from Kevin Drew about how excited he was to see Pavement's set next and he was right. Pavement are the next band.
As a brief interlude, I'd like to say a big fuck you to the security guard who said it was okay to nip to the outside door to hand a ticket to a friend who'd turned up late only to pretend it hadn't happened and proceed to give me stern words for breaking the “NO READMISSION” rules. I can only assume he has bigger problems in his life and feels the need to vent his frustrations through moments like these. It's a shame because there are far more positive ways of relieving his tension, yet instead I was left wishing I could watch the structure of his face slowly disintegrate into a bloody pâté under the relentless blur of my repeatedly stomping foot. Thanks Danny Dyer!
And so Pavement! At Brixton! The venue they played their last pre-reformation gig at in 1999 as proved on the Slow Century DVD I have. Not that proof is really necessary I think, that's what Wikipedia's for, it's my fact checkin' cuz. As with every other band reformation live show I've seen, despite the obvious enjoyment of listening to the incredible songs of one of the most influential bands of the nineties, you can't help feel that it's all a little… wrong. These grown, now very much older men playing songs they wrote over a decade ago with all the onstage awkwardness of a double date with your ex girlfriend and your sister to watch film at a skin cinema all about a guy getting it on with his sister and ex girlfriend at a skin cinema. This isn't the chemistry of a bunch of best friends. It's abundantly clear, Malkmus is the creative force behind the band. Preston School Of Industry, anyone? They know it, the crowd knows it and he knows it. Why else would his guitar be as loud in the mix as the majority of the band combined? Yes Stephen, you're very good, but this didn't make for a particularly balanced sound.
Malkmus's guitar skills are often mentioned as being underrated, and despite this being kind of a contradiction, I feel it is a point easy to forget due to the nature of their back catalogue and so the regular reminders are still necessary. David Berman obviously agrees, and the latest Jicks album seems to have “Hey! I can play the guitar really well!” written all over it, and on the night, there it was! Live on the stage! Fancy that.
With his disproportionately lengthed limbs Malkmus found new and creative ways in which to hold his instrument whilst barely missing a note. Particularly impressive when you look across at Mark Ibold who still looks like he's playing bass guitar for the first time in his life, struggling with the most basic of lines. Whilst looking across, you'll also notice a notable distance between Malkmus and the rest of the band. The gap is occasionally bridged with some in-joke banter in response to the mindlessly excitable Bob Nastanovich leaving the crowd very conscious that they weren't in on the joke.
In terms of the set, there are always going to be people who complain that X, Y or Z hasn't been played once a band reaches the point where they can't fit their entire repertoire into one set, but with Quarantine The Past recently released, you had a pretty good idea what was going to feature. Sure, I lamented the lack of Embassy Row and fucking love …And Carrot Rope despite seeming to be in the minority in doing so, but with a plethora of other fantastic tracks from a solid back catalogue including Summer Babe, Rattled By The Rush & Stereo, I didn't even notice until after it was all over and started writing this.
Spiral got to give a shout out to his solo band and feature a few of the tracks with his (weak) lead vocals including Date With Ikea, where he amusingly didn't even bother to try reaching the chorus octave that has always been so obviously out of his range. I'm not a Spiral hater, I'd probably have serious complexes if I was in a band with a talent like Malkmus too, it's just that these moments just reminded me of the eventual downfall of the band in its initial incarnation.
Overall the sound was pretty sloppy, but then that's always been part of Pavement's charm. This wasn't a night about winning new fans and spreading the word, this was about giving ageing fans the personal jukebox they wanted to listen to whilst cajoling with sweaty men. In that sense, it was a great success! Some songs even found a new found relevance on the stage such as when the Fight This Generation rounded off the encore with its menacing, building ending enough to make me forget that they hadn't even played Range Life yet. Thankfully, they reminded me of this fact with the third encore. Thanks Pavement!
As with so many reunion shows, I was left feeling good afterwards, but not great. It was never going to be terrible, it was never going to be life changing. There were no surprises (balloons don't count), no new material and everything was exactly as you'd expect. It's a relative safeness that when indulged in occasionally can be comforting and enjoyable, but if all you do resides within this protective nostalgic barrier, you're either depressed or a prick. Thanks Peter Kay!