Live review: Stephen Malkmus, CCA, Glasgow, Fri 13 Sep
- Craig Angus
- 17 September 2019
Pavement and Jicks man entertains with his experimental solo material, deep cuts from the back catalogue and a tribute to David Berman
Having opened for Tim Presley's White Fence on their recent tour, this is Martin Frawley's second trip to Glasgow in quick succession. His fondness for the city is apparent, and once again reciprocated. Backed by pianist Stewart Bronaugh, a regular feature in Angel Olsen's backing band, the Australian singer-songwriter (and former Twerps member) plays tracks from his excellent solo album Undone at 31. The candid 'You Want Me?' and laid back 'End of the Bar' are highlights, but there are a couple of covers too, Frawley introducing Glasgow to cult New Zealand band The Great Unwashed and – a beautiful moment – playing 'Goodnight Matron, Hello Jesus' , a song by his father Maurice who passed away two years ago. 'You made it to Glasgow, Dad', he says, proudly.
Remembering those lost to us becomes a theme of the night. Stephen Malkmus' oblique lyricism doesn't mark him out as the sentimental type, but dig deep and his material runs the gamut, from joy to despair, with some social commentary and those wonderfully impenetrable, stoned ramblings thrown in for good measure. Tonight he stuns the CCA by playing 'Trains Across The Sea' and 'The Wild Kindness' by Silver Jews, in honour of his friend and former bandmate David Berman who died in August, and whose loss was felt throughout the world of music and beyond. It's a performance that stuns even the rowdiest of the Friday night crowd into silence and a moment to remember.
The rest of Malkmus' set is peculiar but thrilling. On the first night of the tour he struggles with technical difficulties throughout, including right at the top. But when you can casually open your set with a song as majestic as Pavement's 'Spit on a Stranger' – let's just say that's some trump card to fall back on. The rendition is a little sloppy and he laughs at his own imprecision, but everyone's too busy singing along to care. His old band's tracks are scattered throughout, with 'Blackout', 'Frontwards' and a closing 'Fight This Generation' all present, and he nods knowingly during the intros; these are classics, why pretend otherwise.
The purpose of the tour is to support his once mythical, now tangible 'electronic album' Groove Denied and it's a joy to see him guitarless during 'Victor Borgia', a song that truly sounds like it was crafted in Berlin by one of the great indie rockers trying to 'do Kraftwerk'. He's heckled to play Pavement and Jicks tracks throughout, but the adrenaline rush of 'Raising The Acid Frat' and the wistful 'Grown Nothing' (one of his best ever songs) are thrilling to witness. 'We don't do encores' he says, stony faced, pointing at his laptop. 'I left it all out there'. Three hundred go home tonight with the sounds of not one, but two indie rock legends ringing in their ears and hearts.