Pavement brings reunion tour to Boston

A review of Pavement at the Agganis Arena on September 18, 2010

, Staff Writer

Pavement, one of indie rock’s all-time favorites, finally hit Boston last Saturday as part of their highly anticipated reunion tour. The band brought with them a best-of setlist that had old fans reliving their glory days, and fulfilling the dreams of a number of younger audience members at the Aggans Arena.

It’s been ten years since Pavement’s last album, Terror Twilight, and ten years since the band broke up. Members moved on to produce their own material, Stephen Malkmus in particular seeing a fair amount of success with The Jicks and Silver Jews. Over the past decade, calls for a reunion grew louder and louder. Fans wishes were finally granted last fall when Pavement announced a group of reunion shows in Central Park. Tickets sold out quickly and shortly afterwards a flurry of additional tour dates across the world were announced. The buzz continues to soar and the proved why by rocking Boston a crowd pleasing set.

The show kicked off with “Silence Kit”, which itself opens Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain arguably Pavement’s best-known album. The choice of opener set the tone for the rest of the evening – it grooved pleasantly, and had everyone singing along right off the bat. Pavement’s set-up was, as you might expect, pretty low-frills, simply a slew of light bulbs hung up above the stage and a few lighting fixtures on either side of the band. It was good to see that, in spite of being far more popular than they were when actually active, Pavement haven’t given in to the temptation of spectacle.

Surprisingly, the band’s music filled out very nicely in a live setting. While there’s a certain sparsity to their studio recordings – it’s noisy, sure, but there’s not much in the way of reverb or spatial effects – in the middle of a hockey arena, everything is bigger and more potent, almost even danceable. “Two States”, which just kind of plods along on the disc, became huge in scale, riling up members of the audience, getting them to pump their fists and sing along.

Stephen Malkmus, who effectively is Pavement’s frontman, had very little to say on this evening. He’d occasionally waggle a finger or otherwise acknowledge the audience, but his quips were few and far between. Most of the banter duties fell on bassist Mark Ibold and Bob Nastanovich, who, for lack of a better term, is the band’s hypeman. Even then, there wasn’t much said in between songs, other than thank-yous and brief remembrances of playing the Middle East. Nastanovich was easily the highlight of the evening, taking control of the stage and clearly giving his all through the entire show. No piece better exemplified this than “Conduit For Sale!”, a song that basically calls for the man to scream at the top of his lungs for four minutes. It was an impressive feat to see Nastanovich keep such high levels of energy up for nearly two hours, but he certainly kept the crowd into it.

This isn’t to say that the rest of the band was off their game: the four instrumentalists performed the set (relatively) cleanly, but there was little, if any, deviation from the songs’ studio cuts. In general, the show just didn’t feel very “Pavement-y”, as opposed to the Central Park gigs, which have proven to be much more adventurous and musically engaging. “Fight This Generation” featured an extended introduction in which the band started to open it up a bit, but ultimately led up to a standard, but satisfying, build-up, before settling into the song’s normal groove.

“Fin” provided a nice indication that the evening was beginning to wear down, and the main set ended with “Cut Your Hair”, which of course everyone was happy to hear. After a short break, the band came back on for “Rattled By The Rush”, “Kennel District”, and closed with another crowd-pleaser, “Range Life”.

So, while Pavement’s Boston gig may have not been any sort of musical tour de force, it was pretty much what people wanted to hear, and the set was one that would have left most fans content to have heard a majority of their favorite tunes. There’s no indication that Pavement will be doing anything after this summer, but this reunion has meant a great deal to old and new fans alike, and in that regard it’s been a wild success.

Leave a Reply