Review, photos, setlist: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks at Gothic Theatre, with Tyvek, 2/12/14
STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS at GOTHIC THEATRE | 2/12/14
During their time in Denver, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks were apparently staying in a hotel in Cherry Creek. We know this because Malkmus asked if anyone hung out there or skateboarded in Cherry Creek or went rafting in it. Malkmus engaged in this sort of dry humor throughout the show. Before "Jenny and The Ess Dog," for instance, Malkmus asked if anyone had come in from Wyoming. When some people yelled out in acknowledgement, he said, "We like Wyoming because we like black ice. We like the silent and deadly killer. We call it 'the lung cancer of the road.'"
Malkmus and company started their set off with "Tigers," from 2011's Mirror Traffic. Even though this was the first date of the tour, it seemed like the group was in excellent form, completely comfortable and having fun with playing with new drummer Jake Morris in tow; he fit in perfectly and provided a great balance of power, expressiveness and ear for volume dynamics.
Together, Morris and Bolme made the rhythms seem simple and steady, while subtly controlling the pace in a way that allowed for Malkmus to climb great tonal and emotional heights with his guitar work and singing. In pulling back and emphasizing the rhythm, the two provided the musical equivalent of perspective during this show. It was not an obvious element, but it was one that made a massive difference in the impact of the music. Malkmus and Mike Clark provided the color, drama and atmosphere, but together everybody's contributions made for an inspired show.
Most of the set list came from the act's latest album, Wig Out at Jagbags, and Mirror Traffic, but even the oldest material, including the Pavement songs, got lively treatment. During "Senator," Malkmus lifted the guitar so that he was playing the solo at the end behind his head. This proved the beginning of many unusual positions in which Malkmus held the guitar in executing impressive lead parts -- clearly a part of the fun and playfulness of being a musician for him. And at the end of "Senator," Bolme joined him in playing her bass with behind her head. Goofy? Yes, but it definitely added to the fun, as they were clearly having a little fun with each other.
One interesting aspect to Malkmus' guitar work that seemed more obvious this show happened toward the end of "J Smoov," where Malkmus played the guitar and manipulated the feedback and tone so that the riffs sounded like the equivalent of fireworks moving in variable speeds in slow motion. It was almost like Malkmus and the band were so in synch they could give the impression of slowing down and speeding up time to experience the joy of making those sounds at their own desired pace.
Other bands probably do this all the time, but it was very noticeable here and then at other points in the show. Malkmus also seemed to freely use his fingers and a pick in a way that made it impossible to figure out which he might have been using at any given moment unless you watched closely. Whatever it was the guy was doing, it made for a kaleidoscopic array of sounds and textures that gave him a broad palette of tones.
The main set would have ended with "Forever 28," but Bolme, Clark and Morris started playing an instrumental version of the Styx song "Come Sail Away." Malkmus left the stage at that point, and the trio continued through the song before leaving stage themselves. But everyone came back for a bit of an extended encore that included two Pavement songs, including one that was tagged on to the end of a cover of Steve Miller Band's "Swingtown," of all things.
But before the encore got going Malkmus told us, "These two songs are kind of like our 'Come Sail Away' with its two parts. After that we'll jam out some." And he kept his word as "Swingtown" segued into the classic Pavement song, "Box Elder." The show ended on "Baby C'mon," during which Malkmus treated us to some more unique guitar positions from which he rocked out along with the band and made it feel like we got to see something special.