Paris. Pavement. OMFG.

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Matt, Scott and I were infants when the Velvet Underground released their first record. We wouldn’t be hip enough to absorb the Fall’s massive discography until the early 90′s. But by 1992 we’d grown old and musically savvy enough to discover the second coming of these two bands by way of 5 indie slackers known as Pavement.

Over 20 years after VU’s debut record, history would repeat itself with the release of 1992′s Slanted and Enchanted, the record that, much like The Velvet Underground & Nico, launched a thousand indie bands. Drummer Steve West joined my list of most influential drummers. For their 1994 tour in support of Crooked Rain, my own shitty little band had the improbable good fortune to open two shows at the Masquerade Ballroom in Atlanta. OMFG indeed.

Between 1992-1999 I saw this band dozens of times. Then came a decade of silence. But after years of speculation, last year Pavement announced a reunion tour that weakened the knees of every indie rocker on the planet. As shows sold out in minutes a year in advance of the performance date, I joined the many crippled fans left out in the cold by faster trigger fingers. No Pavement shows for me. Till now.

It was generous of The National to let these old has-beens share a bill at Le Zenith in Paris. Glad they could help ‘em out. Or, to put it another way: watching my old heros take the stage was almost reward enough for having to sit through The National’s sets night after tedious night. Ok, no seriously. When I first heard TN would be headlining the Royal Albert Hall in London, I considered flying across the pond to attend. Then they dropped the real bomb on me. They’d be co-headlining for one show on Pavement’s reunion tour. Booked my flight that day.

Steve Malkmus, Mark Ibold, Steve West, Bob Nastanovich and Scott Kannberg took the stage with grins on their faces and springs in their step. After so many years of in-fighting and animosity, it was immediately apparent that this reunion was not some crass commercial venture. They were pumped to be here and ready to bring it. Like a thunderclap, “Silent Kit” blasted an awestruck crowd of 7000. As I jockeyed for position in a crowded press pit, I couldn’t help but bang my head a bit (not the best tactic to achieve a sharp image). The barrage would last nearly 90 minutes as the band played just about everything you’d want to hear.

The 10-year rest has been good to the band. Ibold showed some middle-age pudge but grinned like a little boy the whole set through. Spiral Stairs is not quite his trim former self but looked chipper/dapper in a newsboy cap. Steve West looked pretty much the same, if only a might hairier. My favorite, Crazy Percussion Bob hasn’t changed a bit–spry and slender, he screamed, hopped and clanged as usual, maintaining his position as the band’s B-12 shot in the arm. And Mr. Malkmus. In between solo stints, he must have spent the past 10 years looking for the fountain of youth. Apparently he found it. The man doesn’t age. You could practically hear the panties peeling off over his melodic lilts and spastic yelps. Not my panties. The ladies’. There were lots of ladies.

Pavement has never been a band big on precision. Rag-tag and sloppy was part of their appeal. But on May 7, 2010 they married youthful slack-and-slop with wise old age to perform a bigger, louder, tighter set than one might have expected. They’re second coming has them embracing live fidelity while staying true to their slacker-punk ethos. They’ve never sounded better.

Below follows a probable set list. If you happen to have the official set list, let me know. At some point I had to abandon editorial precision and just enjoying the fucking show.

Probable Set List from Le Zenith, May 7, 2010

Brighten the Corners
Stereo
Shady Lane
Date With Ikea

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Silent Kit
Elevate Me Later
Stop Breathin
Cut Your Hair
Unfair
Range Life

Slanted and Enchanted
Summer Babe
In Her Mouth a Desert
Conduit For Sale!
Here
Two States

Watery Domestic
Shoot The Singer

Westing (By Musket and Sextant)
Box Elder

Wowee Zowee
Black Out
Grounded
Serpertine Pad
AT&T
Kennel District
Easily Fooled