STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS
Live at Lee’s Palace (Toronto)
February 22, 2014
Review by Eduardo Carli de Moraes
It was a chilling night of this long Canadian winter, and Toronto’s streets were all covered with slippery layers of ice and mountains of snow. Radiohead’s words occured to me – “You watch your feet for cracks in the pavement”, sings Thom Yorke in OK Computer’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien” – as I went to my encounter with Mr. Malkmus trying not to kiss the floor. The harshness of the weather outside wasn’t exactly inviting an adventure outdoors, but after shielding myself behind some heavy coats, I headed for the concert with some Pavement’s pet sounds, playing loud on the earphones, as a warm-up. And there I went, trembling with the chilling winds as well as with an youthful excitement I usually nickname “the teenage kicks” (after the Undertones punk hit). After all, I was about to witness, in my first ever experience at Lee’s Palace (the Torontonian CBGB’s?), a living legend of North American indie-rock – who happens to be, also, a very sharp stand-up comedian.
I deem Mr Malkmus to be one of those artists who are homo ludens incarnate (Johan Huizinga would’ve liked him, I guess). The lead singer for alternative rock legendary band Pavement, who has been fronting The Jicks and has already recorded 6 studio albums with his new group, certainly was in high spirits in this particular evening. His troupe of Jicks seemed equally at ease. At one point, Mr. Malkmus thanked Canada, the brother-country at the North, for some of its greatest contributions to mankind: Neil Young, Sloan and Moosehead Beer. At another point, bass-player Joanna Bolme went to the mic to share with the audience her loneliness: she felt the house was packed with guys and called out for the girls in the house to make a little noise; Malkmus consoled his bandmate’s made-up blues: “Well, we’re all girls in indie rock…”. On stage, Malkmus and The Jicks seemed simultaneously excited and cool – they seemed quite happy to be there, playing and joking, and went through their set doing it like the Sonics recommended: “Maintaining My Cool”.
The band sounded great: some loud guitars reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill attacked us from the speakers throughout the show, but The Jicks also explored some gentler tunes that evoke comparisons to the Velvet Underground, Half Japanese, or even Elvis Costello. Malkmus’ singing, filled with wordplays and verbal games, are a trademark since the Pavement’s days and still sound quite charming, despite the fact that its meanings are, to me, very frequently felt as pure nonsense. Like a Dadaist poet who listened to much Lou Reed – or some extravagant stuff similar to that. He also sometimes sounds like a white boy trying to rap (the sort of stuff Beck Hansen used to do really well back in Odelay era). To sum things you: this was a great live musical experience for me, an admirer of Pavement’s music (but somewhat negligent follower of Malkmus’ The Jicks). The concert has revived in he the conviction that Pavement was truly one of the greatest American indie-rock bands of the 90s – especially due to the benchmarks Slanted & Enchanted, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee (but Brighten The Corners and Terror Twilight are also very interesting and listenable records; more than that: they’re quite lovely and lovable).
I hope I’ll get a chance to see many more concerts as good as this one was during my time in Toronto, and I certainly have already fallen somewhat in love with that neighbourhood, at Bloor Street, one of my favorite places in town: it’s filled my great bookstores with truly accesible prices (like BMV, City Books, and many others), it has hempshops filled with goods for potheads (from clothes made of hemp fibre to vaporizers, grinders and other devices), and it has stunning street musicians that scream out their lungs in front of Dollaramas while reviving Nuggets psychedelic gems. As a souvenir of this chilly Canadian night where I found so much human warmth in these musicians, I leave you with a video filmed there at Lee’s Palace, as I witnessed for the first time, in flesh-and-bone, doing their thing on a stage in front of a howling and cheering audience… Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks:
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