Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks at Crescent Ballroom, 2/24/12
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks
Friday, February 24
Okay, Phoenix. First, the good news: According to no less an authority than Stephen Malkmus, godfather of slacker cool, genuinely tall and good-looking former frontman of Pavement and current leader of The Jicks, Portland now considers Phoenix a rival city. "We've been driving through [Phoenix]," Malkmus said, looking lanky and shaggy with a Fender Stratocaster slung at his waist. "It's like the Phoenix renaissance. Phoenix is rising from the ashes . . . the city is officially livable."
Now, the bad: According to the same indie-rock hero, Phoenix Sun Steve Nash is a big fan of Foster the People. Or something. "Steve Nash is saving his energy for Foster the People," Malkmus joked. There was plenty of that -- playful banter among bassist Joanna Bolme, guitarist/keyboardist Mike Clark, and drummer Jake Morris.
Bolme warned us, and, yeah, the band does indeed still jam. How much you liked it depended on tolerance for long, loose guitar solos. Malkmus' most recent, the Beck-produced Mirror Traffic doesn't stray into ponderous, progressive rock territory as much as the last (Real Emotional Trash), but the band isn't afraid of stretching out in a concert setting.
And it works. I could have stood to hear hear a little more volume from Malkmus' guitar on the solo section of "Stick Figures in Love," but as the set progressed, things got louder and fuller (or I got used to the volume and my brain adjusted, I don't know).
The set stuck mostly to the recent albums, but the band had some fun with things, too, performing Sweet's 1978 pop/prog hit "Love Is Like Oxygen." The riff threw me at first, wondering if it was Foreigner's "Double Vision," but once the staccato piano lead hit, I knew what I was hearing, and it was pretty awesome. The crowd shouted back the lyrics, and while there was an element of pure fun to the cover, it reveals a sensibility at work in Malkmus' songwriting, a kind of multi-suite, ambitious, theatrical pop song thing (though the band didn't do the long, 12-inch version of the tune).