Artist: Pavement
Date: 13 May
Venue: O2 Academy Brixton
Review: Adam Bychawski
Rating: ****

For anyone who was born too late to see Pavement in their prime, subsequently becoming a fan was a slightly depressing prospect, knowing the opportunity to see them live might never arise. Incessant rumours and questions about a possible 20th anniversary reunion tour thankfully broke them, and eventually four nights were confirmed in London’s Brixton Academy. Pavement’s last show in 1999 was in this same venue, famous for Stephen Malkmus attaching a pair of handcuffs to his microphone stand, and at one point telling that audience: “These symbolize what it’s like being in a band all these years.”

Tonight, Malkmus is left of centre stage, but he doesn’t show too much reluctance to be there, by more often than not engaging with the other band members. Most people here look old enough to claim “I was there in 1999, man” and the band all have reunion tour syndrome with endless anecdotes: talking about how things have changed now they’re old. OK, we get it, you’ve been around for a while.

After a crowd-pandering opener of hits ‘Grounded’, ‘Gold Soundz’ and ‘Cut Your Hair’, the set dips a bit with more obscure offcuts from albums Slanted & Enchanted and Terror Twilight. Thankfully, things pick-up with ‘Stop Breathing’, its instrumental second half building up to a satisfyingly big climax. With ‘Debris Slide’, Pavement prove that they still can sound loud, messy and rockier than most of their indie back-catalogue might suggest.

In a typical 90s band fashion, some big floating balloons are released in the encore. High point has to be ‘Range Life’, with Malkmus sounding even more world-wearied than on record. I can’t tell how this matches up to 1999, but I can safely say Pavement have entirely justified their reputation, with not a single hissy fit in sight.

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