Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks @ The Pabst


By - Mar 27th, 2008 02:52 pm

“The last time we played here, we didn’t play here,” bassist Joanna Bolme reminisced, referring to The Jicks’ 2003 “Milwaukee Show,” where they unexpectedly played an entire set pulled strictly from the Pavement back catalog.

Their March 20th show at the Pabst Theater, the second stop on the Jicks’ spring 2008 headlining tour with John Vanderslice, didn’t make such history. This time, the band did what they were supposed to: supported new release Real Emotional Trash. Nine of the disc’s ten tracks were included; “Elmo Delmo” wasn’t. Three songs into the set, someone vocally demanded that Malkmus turn up his guitar (“Down? Or Up?” Malkmus clarified, somehow confused. “Guitars aren’t important to this band,” Bolme joked), but generally, the audience of mostly white male 20-somethings was complacent.

“This record was made for playing live, not for listening,” a friend criticized in the lobby at a beer break during the tame “Out Of Reaches.” Though true that something like “Baltimore,” busting with bass-lines and lots of opportunity for Malkmus to prove his guitar fluency, is win-win, 2003’s Pig Lib brought the show’s most stellar point — and some looseness — with “(Do Not Feed the) Oyster.”

The second half of “Real Emotional Trash” was also easily climactic; its throbbing energy lured even more of those mostly white male 20-somethings away from their theater seats and toward the pit of the stage. The band bottomed out in a cheap attempt to score points during “Hopscotch Willie.” They lifted their drinks while emphasizing the lyrics “underneath the pier/with BEER!” but didn’t get the reaction they anticipated from Brew City. The crowd had one repeated request throughout the evening, and the lively “Baby C’mon” (Face the Truth, 2005) was finally played as the set’s last word, leaving the audience stomping and howling for an encore.

The Jicks returned with a cover of “Run to Your Lover,” and Malkmus confessed that his singing manner (no, nothing to do with cowbell) made him feel like a Will Ferrell impersonator. It took some consideration before finding another encore song new Jick, drummer Janet Weiss (the Bright Eyes tourmate formerly of Sleater-Kinney), would consent to.

“We’re not playing “Troubbble,” Malkmus said, to audible disappointment. “We played that last night [in Minneapolis].” They settled on “Animal Midnight” and sent everyone packing before twelve o’clock. One couldn’t help feeling that what Minneapolis hadn’t already spoiled was being spared for Chicago the next night. There’s only space for one “Milwaukee Show” in the books, after all. VS

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