Pavement show: relaxed, not lackadaisical

Posted by Eric Shapiro

Judging by reviews of Pavement's shows since its reunion a couple of months ago, I expected to see a band whose slacker attitude and time apart manifested itself in extreme sloppiness.

But unless Friday night's show at the Rumsey Playfield on the east side of New York's Central Park on Sept. 24 was a complete anomaly, the aforementioned assessment couldn't be further from the truth. Actually, it's a bit insulting (although it's difficult to imagine a band known for its apathy taking offense); Malkmus, Spiral Stairs and company are seasoned musicians, and it's not as if they haven't picked up their instruments since Pavement broke up in 1999.

The only mistakes the band made were entirely deliberate. One might call such instances "audience alienation," but the fact is, the crowd – made up of both middle-aged fans from the band's heyday and college age hipsters – seemed to relish the intentional gaffes, as if they were in on some musical joke. Barring a few half-hearted gestures, Stephen Malkmus remained studiously disengaged, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Pavement's reunion triggered a collective orgasm in the ever-growing world of independent music.

The fact that the audience responded so well is a testament to how much of an impact Pavement's aesthetic has had on modern music. 1980s alternative rock bands like Dinosaur Jr. and the Replacements pushed their brands of apathy to varying degrees of success, but Pavement set the terms for following decade.

The only aspect of the show that didn't seem entirely incidental was the setlist. Thankfully, the band had enough sense to realize that even they couldn't get away with playing all obscurities (tickets don't cost $10 dollars anymore!); fan faves like "Cut Your Hair," "Range Life," "Gold Soundz," "Shady Lane," "Summer Babe," "Silence Kit," "Father to a Sister of Thought" and others were all forthcoming.

The mood was unquestionably positive, relaxed rather than lackadaisical. There was no stage diving, but plenty of singing along.

And honestly, although I'm too young to have seen Pavement play in the 1990s, Friday night seemed like an approximation of how the band must have sounded back in the day rather than a major event.

I wasn't blown away, but it probably wouldn't have been a true Pavement concert if I were.

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