The UK has always been a second home for cult indie heroes Pavement. Rising to prominence in the early 90s with their grungy and abrasive style, one of their earliest supporters was John Peel, who picked up on their early single ‘Box Elder’ and kickstarted the band’s transatlantic love affair.
Back on these shores for the first time since 2010, Pavement’s rousing ongoing reunion tour – which finally got underway in the summer following COVID-enforced delays – has already seen them roll back the years and throw in a range of fan favourites. Kicking off the first night of a four-date residency at London’s Roundhouse, the five-piece continue to switch up their setlist by running through songs from across their back catalogue, spanning their lo-fi beginnings, cult classics and the more refined offerings of their last album, 1999’s ‘Terror Twilight’.
From the off tonight, any sense of poise from the usually calm and collected frontman Stephen Malkmus disappears as soon as Pavement tear into a double header of ‘Shady Lane’ and ‘Stereo’, the latter sparking the first moshpit of the night and raised pints from all corners of the Roundhouse’s tightly-packed concourse.
The hollering cheers which later greet the opening chords of ‘Grounded’, meanwhile, underline the sleeper-hit status of their 1995 album ‘Wowee Zowee’. Originally regarded as a lost opportunity for Pavement to enter the mainstream, the album has subsequently become a cult favourite among the band’s fanbase nearly 30 years on. Curiously, time has also seen ‘Harness Your Hopes’, a deep cut from their 1999 EP ‘Spit On A Stranger’, become the band’s most streamed song on Spotify, and have a viral TikTok moment in recent years; the band recognise their new audience, dropping the song mid-set.
The eccentric edge which Pavement weaved into their music in the 1990s marked them out as a unique outfit at the time, and you can still see that oddball individualism on stage tonight. During ‘Unfair’, Malkmus starts flipping off the crowd in between riffs while percussionist Bob Nastanovich, who wears one of the most warming smiles in indie rock, looks like he’s about to swallow the mic as he’s screaming so hard.
The wide-eyed crowd lap it up as Pavement tear through what amounts to a greatest hits set: from the splintered and aggressive riffs of ‘Summer Babe’ and ‘Embassy Row’ to the ritualistic drumming that underscores ‘Two States’, those inside the Roundhouse lap up every moment. As Malkmus jokes half-way through the set: “We’re back like we never left.”
‘Starlings Of The Slipstream’
‘Feed ‘em To The (Linden) Lions’
‘Harness Your Hopes’
‘Cut Your Hair’
‘Spit On A Stranger’
‘Transport Is Arranged’