Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 | 12:45 p.m.
When Las Vegas last saw Stephen Malkmus, he was on his back, pawing at his guitar as Pavement played its final U.S. reunion concert. That set, part of 2010’s Matador at 21 festival at the Pearl, might not have felt perfect, but it certainly was memorable, something that can’t be said of Malkmus’ return to town.
The most indelible moments from Saturday’s Beauty Bar performance by SM and his band, The Jicks, were, in order of occurrence: 1. Malkmus’ assurance that he was wearing a “STPHN MLKMS” shirt off the merch table because he hadn’t prepared for Downtown’s unusually cold weather, 2. An appearance from the Love Grub food truck, which took a slow drive through the adjacent alley between songs and 3. The encore, which saw Malkmus lead his group through cover versions of rock standard “Hey Joe” and two Meat Puppets songs, “Up on the Sun” and “Away.”
- Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
- February 25, Beauty Bar
You’ll notice none of that has anything to do with Malkmus’ own music, and that’s no great surprise. On five albums since Pavement disbanded in 1999, its former leader has produced tunes solid enough by most standards but generally unworthy of the songwriter behind quintessential ’90s indie-rock epics like “In the Mouth a Desert,” “Unfair” and “Fight This Generation.” The 14 originals Malkmus and his Jicks played Saturday night failed to stand out in any particularly way, except that the singles got the crowd moving more (“Senator,” “Baby C’mon”), and closer “Real Emotional Trash” went on for a lot longer than the rest.
Malkmus once again proved himself to be an underrated—and unusual—guitarist, his sloppy-by-design style taking him places most might fear to tread. Still, too many of his notes got soaked up by a blunted sound mix, which also buried much of his trademark lyrical wit. As for covering other artists, rather than digging up something by his old band, that came as no surprise—Malkmus has rarely played Pavement with the Jicks, and the brief reunion apparently hasn’t softened that stance. It’s tough not to respect him for that, but it doesn’t make not hearing “Here” any easier.
“Jenny and the Ess-Dog”
“Long Hard Book”
“Jo Jo’s Jacket”
“Stick Figures in Love”
“Real Emotional Trash”
“Up on the Sun” (Meat Puppets)
“Away” (Meat Puppets)