London King's Cross Scala
Ultimately, there will be bigger [a]Pavement[/a] gigs this year, opportunities to better wallow in this remarkable group's lingering embrace with pop...
Seven years since they first brightened our living corners, and still there's a guy at the back whose primary role appears to be drinking beer and smiling encouragingly at the others, with the occasional screaming fit thrown in. The day Robert Nastanovich no longer bolsters Pavement's middle-order will be the rock equivalent of the ravens fleeing the Tower. But just as Bob these days numbers the playing of keyboards among his many talents, Pavement have come a long way since the scrawny pop dissidence of yore. This one-off show offered an intimate gathering the opportunity to marvel at the vein of worsted melancholia that new LP 'Terror Twilight' taps with fearsome loveliness, as well as to bathe in the all-pervasive bonhomie and wonder at just how these consummate craftsmen were once held to exemplify the care-less generation.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," smiles Stephen. It's to be the evening's mantra. "Yes, we're very civilised." And then some. Pavement are so well-mannered they can get away with a set comprised almost entirely of songs most of the audience have not yet heard and that the band themselves are clearly still coming to terms with. After 'Platform Blues' lurches to a final halt, Malkmus advises, "When in doubt, thank." But gigs shouldn't ever be pure ritual, and this affair has the aura of an event, where feet are removed from brakes and freewheeling is encouraged.
For the entirety of 'Speak See Remember' - "To Mark E Smith, he's always on the guest list" - one punter holds his mobile phone aloft, doubtless moved to inform friends and family of the fact that Mark Ibold can somehow play bass and smile at everyone in the building simultaneously, or perhaps that Bob's background yelling transports 'Cream Of Gold' to a touched metaphysical sphere. Likewise 'Stereo', the point where a glut of old numbers might have been heaved out for the sake of familiarity breeding contentment. Yet their substantial history is left unruffled, aside from a jubilant 'Trigger Cut' - "Taking you back to the days when Mega City Four could walk into pubs with heads held high" - and encore jollies through 'Shady Lane' and 'Loretta's Scars'.
Ultimately, there will be bigger Pavement gigs this year, opportunities to better wallow in this remarkable group's lingering embrace with pop. But as Scott, Mark, Westie, Stephen and a manic handshaking Bob depart, leaving crushed fingers and melted hearts in their wake, one has to reflect that in a musical world of conformist, line-and-length predictability, no band bowls better googlies than they.
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