November 30, 2023

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Pavement jams with Kurt Vile, rocks the hits, and digs for deep cuts at The Met

Midway through the encore of Pavement‘s sold out concert at The Met Philly last night, singer-guitarist Stephen Malkmus started haphazardly naming Philly music things of a certain vintage. “Siltbreeze. Tom Lax. Philadelphia Record Exchange,” he ran down the list. Maybe it was his elder statesman way of grasping for scene points from the local indie intelligentsia; maybe he felt mildly self-conscious about using precious banter time earlier recalling his teenage daughter’s “Philadelphia, like the cream cheese” take on the day’s tour stop.

Or maybe neither of those things matter; this show was a love fest, with a crowd full of committed back-in-the-day devotees as well as Gen-Z and millennial listeners seeing Pavement for the first time. Malkmus didn’t need scene points, nor did he need to apologize. Maybe – probably – he’s just generally knowledgeable of and affectionate towards Philadelphia and its music community, and he and the band let it show in all kinds of ways last night.

A big one was the adventurous, freewheeling set that boasted Pavement’s big singalongable hits — “Summer Babe” and “Stereo” landing at slots two and three had the crowd in a tizzy — showcased in equal measure as the band’s tucked-away album tracks — the languid, stoner-y vibes of “Black Out” breezed into “Embassy Row,” where percussionist / vocalist / hype person Bob Nostanovich (the Bez of this group, if you will) paced the stage with a wireless mic, working the crowd like this was a hardcore show.

Pavement | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

Rounding out the lineup were founding members Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg on guitar and vocals and Mark Ibold on bass, with longtime drummer Steve West keeping it chill behind the kit and touring keyboardist Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag adding lush flourishes, atmospheric textures, and vibrant energy, notably when she jumped to the front to sing along on the Slanted And Enchanted single “Trigger Cut.”

Another song from that album got the local celebrity treatment, when Malkmus brought out “the mayor of Philadelphia” to sing lead on “Zurich Is Stained.” It was Pavement’s onetime labelmate Kurt Vile, who sounded great and seemed stoked to be there, but in his typical KV way was low-key and aloof about it all, to the point where a couple folks in the row behind me spent a good minute of the two-minute bop debating whether it was Kurt Vile or Alex G up there. For those who did realize what was going on, it was a special moment, a secret shared with a few thousand strangers.

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