If you’ve read my reviews for Pavement’s Quarantine The Past or Malkmus’ solo album Real Emotional Trash, it’s really no secret that I adore the band. Unfortunately, I was 9 years old when Pavement broke up and at the time probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought, if I had even known. I was 9, I didn’t listen to music and I sure as shit didn’t care about some awkward indie band. I grew to care, though. A lot. Fast forward to adolescent me, trapped somewhere between overlapping fashion trends and habitual mood changes, and the demise of Malkmus, Kannberg, and co. was suddenly a big deal, regardless of how late I’d arrived to the party. Total bummer. What was left for me? Over time I’d learn every word to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, spend lazy Sunday afternoons pouring over special editions of Slanted and Enchanted and Wowee Zowee, and hell, I discovered The Fall simply because Mark E. Smith once contemptuously remarked of the band: “It’s just The Fall in 1985, isn’t it? They haven’t got an original idea in their heads”.
But, obviously, I wouldn’t be writing this if things had stayed that way. No, our old friends decided to give this whole touring business another go, no less than a decade after they originally called it quits and I was there to witness the conclusion of a 4-day run of sets at the O2 Academy Brixton. To warrant four back-to-back shows in such a high demand venue is in itself a big deal, but when you’ve got Broken Social Scene opening for you, that really says something. Truth is, these guys deserve every bit of that acclaim, or at least as much as The Stone Temple Pilots or Smashing Pumpkins did, they’ll have you know.
Broken Social Scene set the mood as well anyone could’ve expected, busting out crowd favourites like “7/4 Shoreline” along with a few new jams (which had me regretting not giving Forgiveness Rock Record much attention since its release). It was a lucky twist of fortune for me; rather than go the night before and see lo-fi act Sic Alps messily introduce the 90’s stalwarts, I switched my tickets due to my company not being able to make it that day and suddenly it was two indie titans for the price of one. Admittedly, as much as Broken Social Scene aced their set, it was the next act we were all pining for and once Kevin Drew and co. had played their last note to resounding applause, out they came: Malkmus in all his lanky glory, Ibold and his clumsy, parted locks of hair, Nastanovich and his scream, West behind the drum kit, and ‘Spiral Stairs’ Kannberg inexplicably wearing a hat inside.
What a set was in store for us too. They embarked on a set list of no less than 25 songs, jumping from hits like “Gold Soundz” to “Cut Your Hair” early on, pushing all the right buttons with the crowd, who grew steadily less reserved. Malkmus stood tall and huddled over his microphone, with lines like “And she’s eating her fingers / Like they’re just another meal” escaping in his typical, casual drawl. Favourites “Shady Lane”, “Silence Kit”, “In The Mouth A Desert” flew by in a sing-a-long flurry, with slower songs like “Here” and “Stop Breathing” slotted in between. “Trigger Cut”, “Spit on a Stranger” and “Summer Babe” finished things off in incredibly fun, lo-fi ditty fashion, before the band reappeared with an additional three-song encore. Though Kannberg struggled to hit the high note during the chorus of the nonetheless superb “Date With Ikea”, “Stereo”’s yelped chorus and tongue-in-cheek lyrics was one of the best moments of the night and Wowee Zowee’s slow-moving “Fight This Generation” took them off with a quirky, extended instrumental.
They left the stage once again, though they weren’t finished just yet. One of my absolute favourite Pavement songs was left; “Range Life”, given a second encore all to itself. It was an incredible way to end the night, uniting the crowd in strained, uninhibited shouts of “They’re foxy to me, are they foxy to you?” and “Until you snort it up or shoot it down, you’re never gonna feel free”. There aren’t many bands that can pull off sloppy as endearingly as Pavement do and through it all, I couldn’t help but feel that this was exactly how I imagined them.