Like so many great bands that defined a decade (The Beatles being the most obvious), Pavement carved their oversized initials in the 1990s. Those short 10 years from ’89 to ’99, for many, defined their musical tastes and those influences are felt in those bands who, to quote from “Cut Your Hair,” start up each and every day, many now with undeniable references to Pavement. So it was no small thing that Pavement’s reunion tour was set for at the Warner Theatre, and it was no surprise that the Thursday night show was sold out in moments!
As the light dimmed and the sound of Farai’s “National Gangsters” thrummed over the speakers of the old theater on Oct. 6, Steve Malkmus (vocals/guitar) and drummer Steve West took the stage in the dim lights and started on “Our Singer” from Slanted and Enchanted as the rest of the band made it onto the stage with Bob Nastanovich coming to the edge of the stage waving to the crowd. But things kicked into gear as soon as those first loopy notes of “Stereo” hit the air, with the crowd singing/shouting the response to “If the signatures are checked” with a “You’ll just have to wait!”
The band is as at-home with jammin’ grooves as with jangly anthemic pop nuggets… and with more than a little punk rock thrown in for good measure. And if you thought this was just a by-the-numbers type of reunion show, you’d be sorely mistaken. Even though there was a set list, the free-wheeling feel of the set made the show seem spontaneous at times, with stories being bantered back and forth between Nastanovich (percussion, vocals, overall hype man, and, it can be argued, the heart of the band) and Malkmus.
“Let’s do a double dip into the wonder that is Watery Domestic. Shall we?,” Malkmus asked the audience before going into a two-fer of “Feed ’em to the (Linden) Lions” and “Shoot the Singer” from the aforementioned EP. “Going into that cookie jar twice!”
After playing “Debris Slide,” Malkmus intoned “That was kinda like a mix between the Pixies and the first part was supposed to be like ‘Are You Experienced’ by the Jimi Hendrix trio,” as the crowd laughed along. “You probably didn’t notice that, but…” One great addition to the band mix was Rebecca Cole, of Wild Flag and (an old personal fave) The Minders, on keyboards / organ and percussion.
“Wasn’t this the place where the Cure played in 1984?,” Malkmus asked the crowd. “You were sitting over there,” Nastanovich called back, “and I was sitting over there,” leading to a story about scoring a bad ticket but ending up sitting next to the guy who sold said ticket. “Awkward!”
Watch the official video for “Harness Your Hopes” by Pavement on YouTube:
From singles like “Shady Lane” to fan favorites like “Serpentine Pad” with the indominable Bob Nastanovich prowling the stage it was a night that hit all the corners. But it was those sing-along/shout-along anthems of sorts that turned what could have been a regular rock show into something more like a community event, with just about everyone in the place knowing every word and generously lending their vocal talents (or lack thereof) to these songs that felt like familiar friends. There was that sense of taking a step back in time, certainly. And mentioning their early DC Space show years ago, the band went on to play early favorite “Two States,” as this capacity theater yelled out along with the band, “forty million daggers!.”
As Malkmus kicked and shimmied, Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg (guitar/vocals) and Mark Ibold (bass) genuinely seemed like they were having blast, as Kannberg at one point threw his baseball cap out into the audience. Even as the band started on the last song of the regular set, the popular “Cut Your Hair,” it almost felt like the energy was just radiating from the stage.
And though it felt inevitable (come on, there had to be an encore!), the band returned to play one of the best encores I’ve witnessed in years with “Range Life” and “Gold Soundz” in the mix that capped off a show I’d put in the best of the year category. With hopes this becomes more of a regular occurrence, Pavement continues their tour with a stop at Austin City Limits with a subsequent tour across the pond.
The setlist included:
Starlings of the Slipstream
Feed ’em to the (Linden) Lions
Shoot The Singer
Fight This Generation
Date w/ IKEA
Spit On A Stranger
Father (To a Sister of Thought)
Half a Canyon
Motion Suggests Itself
Cut Your Hair
Here are more photos of Pavement performing at the Warner Theatre on Oct. 6, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.