For Those About to Rock

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks. At SOhO, Saturday, January
13.

Reviewed by Max Burke

Stephen-Malkmus.jpgSOhO has been booking some excellent
acts in the last few months. It’s to their credit that Santa
Barbara audiences have a chance to see A-list, nationally touring
groups like TV on the Radio, Calexico, and now Stephen Malkmus,
former front man for truly the best American rock band of the ’90s,
Pavement.

Opening group Entrance had the power and energy to peel the
paint off the walls as they launched into lengthy psych-jam
explorations grounded in a pounding rhythm section. Unfortunately,
the too-timid crowd simply nodded their heads, arms-crossed, in the
typical indie rock fan pose. With a live sound closer to a cleaned
up Comets on Fire than folk revivalism, Entrance did its job in
preparing the audience for the aggressive guitar-rock onslaught
that Malkmus and his Jicks would unleash.

Kicking the set off with a fierce rendition of “Jo Jo’s
Jacket” — the bizarre and excellent Yul Brynner-inspired tune from
his debut record — Malkmus never let the momentum let up. Much new
material was played, and the lengthy guitar workouts and loose
structure of the songs suggest that he is heading further in the
direction of his last record, Face the Truth, which seems to trade
the technically exemplary but somewhat staid atmosphere of his
first two LPs for the more unhinged charm of classic-era Pavement.
If the new songs make their way to the recording studio with their
live immediacy intact, it will certainly be Malkmus’s finest solo
moment to date.

The only downside to such a tremendous show was the crowd. As
Malkmus played song after song of potent and compelling rock and
roll, the crowd would yell and clap between songs, but those who
were really moving around and enjoying themselves were few and far
between. Rock music, particularly in its live distillation, is a
baldly fun and slightly silly proposition — Malkmus understands
this deeply — but the self-seriousness and pretension of Saturday
night’s sold-out crowd didn’t match the intensity and earnestness
of the performers.

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