What can I say? I love Pavement, and last night, Pavement loved me back.
Sometimes I think no matter what kind of show Pavement put on I would swallow it appreciatively. The seminal slackers are tied with Radiohead as my all-time favorite and most influential band, and since they broke up two years before I discovered their music, I never expected to see them in concert. Yet I can't count the times I've been jacked up to see a musician only to leave deeply disappointed, and my experiences with the reunited Pavement this year have left me uniformly delighted, so they must be doing something right.
The biggest plus last night at LC Pavilion was a setlist that didn't dilly dally in nonessential deep cuts and latter day mediocrity. Instead, Pavement served up a generous helping of their best-loved material. There were notable omissions, sure — would have loved to have heard "Shoot the Singer", "Carrot Rope", "Loretta's Scars" and many more — but when a band has this much gold in its catalog, they're never going to get to everything.
For a band notorious for haphazard performances, they played these classics with admirable poise and precision despite Stephen Malkmus apparently plunging deeper and deeper into drunkenness throughout the evening. Of course, it's possible he was completely sober and is just a truly bizarre character. Mark Ibold was affable and steadfast on bass at center stage, while awkward goofball Spiral Stairs (a.k.a. Scott Kannberg) seemed to relish every chance to relive the glory days. Steve West held it down on drums as expected, with minimal commentary and the occasional background vocal. (Interesting that Malkmus never sings backup on Kannberg's songs.)
Then there's Bob Nastanovich. Musically, he's the least essential member by far, mostly just mimicking West's drum parts at his auxiliary percussion station. Yet the band would be much the lesser without those boisterous moments when he grabs the mic and goes bananas. His righteous screams are so genuine and silly that I can't imagine not getting swept up in the glorious upheaval of "Unfair" or "Conduit For Sale".
Little details like Malkmus playing with his guitar strap over his head and Kannberg riding a bike around stage between encores reminded me that at the core, despite the sentiment I've attached to songs like "Grounded" and "Gold Soundz", this band is about having a ridiculous good time. Malkmus sings some of rock's more absurd lyrics; most of the time I have no idea what he's talking about, and I sense that's part of the point for the ultimate postmodern rock band. They frame a series of non sequiturs in compelling slipshod pop music; you supply your own emotional resonance. Tack on layers of nostalgia, and you've got a recipe for the disheveled splendor that transpired last night at LC.