Merry Malkmus

STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS at Lee's Palace, November 20. Tickets: $17.50. Attendance: 500. Rating: NNNconsidering pavement's wellearned reputation for.

STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS at Lee’s Palace, November 20. Tickets: $17.50. Attendance: 500. Rating: NNN

considering pavement’s wellearned reputation for half-assed live shows, expectations were fairly modest for former frontman Stephen Malkmus’s solo set at Lee’s Palace.That Tuesday was also the final night of a lengthy world tour couldn’t have helped matters much. An evening of false starts and messing around seemed inevitable.

Somewhere between Pavement’s infamous final gig, during which Malkmus hung a set of handcuffs on the mike stand to show his disgust, and now, though, the rail-thin singer has rediscovered the fun of playing live. Whether it’s actually playing with a band who look like they want to be there — his Jicks quartet try to get involved in the action rather than sulk in the background — or not having to play the hits, Malkmus looked positively giddy Tuesday.

After four jokes by a hilariously unfunny stand-up comedian, Malkmus broke up the 90-minute set with his own running commentary, crooning about the 401 and even occasionally smiling. Sadly though, his good mood did not affect the band’s actual performance.

With just one mediocre solo album out and a peculiar refusal to perform any Pavement tunes, Malkmus and the Jicks were unable to work up any real energy, making people suffer through meandering jams to hear proper songs like Church On White and Jenny & The Ess Dog. The surprise guest appearance for one song of former Pavement drummer/current Malkmus tour manager Bob Nastanovich on shouting and meaningless percussion was cute but didn’t do much to keep things together.

In fact, the only time Malkmus and crew really hit their stride was when they stopped playing his material and returned for an encore of covers. Versions of the Wipers’ Alien Boy and Flipper’s Ha Ha Ha were furious and full of life — everything the last hour of music wasn’t. It ended with Malkmus on drums staggering through a version of Satellite Of Love, with a bit of Crash Test Dummies slipped into the middle.

Had the song not completely fallen apart at the end, it would have been shocking.

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