Similar to Stephen Malkmus’s old band, Pavement, there is a Replacements-like quality to the Jicks’ live sets. They can be the best band in the world on one night, and they can be the worst band in the universe on the next. Their last San Diego show at the Belly Up was a bit on the lackluster side. The band seemed tired onstage, and even an encore filled with vintage Black Flag covers couldn’t light a fire under their collective arses.
Maybe smaller venues are the remedy, because at Casbah last Saturday evening the band powered through a set of Malkmus’s solo tunes as well as one could ever hope the Jicks to play. The sloppy moments were charming, as in they were few and far between as opposed to often, overwhelming, and angering. I will say that Malkmus still has the tendency to neglect the vocals in favor of nailing a guitar part. A trait that makes one wonder if he was voted “Most Likely to Miss the First Three Words of Every Verse” in his High School yearbook.
While the band was playing “Phantasies” off Malkmus’s first solo album, I found myself amazed that this song is well over ten years-old now. The Jicks have become more of a mainstay than Pavement in Malkmus’s life, and he appears content with his cohorts. Onstage he is relaxed to a point of silliness, playing a guitar haphazardly behind his shoulder and cracking jokes between songs — “San Diego is a big hockey town.” The rest of the band seems more than happy to be along for the ride. No surprise here, since they get to play amazing songs such as “Chartjunk,” “Asking Price,” and the absolutely perfect “Stick Figures in Love” at cool venues like Casbah. I’m sure all across the U.S. it’s the same as it was at the club on this night. The crowds smile during the performances and laugh at all the goofy jokes between them. Life is not bad for Stephen Malkmus.
Concert: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Date: Saturday, March 29