Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

Beauty Bar, Feb. 25

The indie rock legend took the back-patio stage about 12:30 a.m. befitting his slacker-cool image—without announcement, taking time to tune his guitar. Surprisingly, it was a less-than-capacity turnout for the former Pavement frontman, who at 45 years old looked closer to 25 with his windswept California surfer hairdo.

Malkmus pulled primarily from his 2011 release, Mirror Traffic, which is the best of his five post-Pavement solo albums. “Senator” and its sing-along line, “I know what the senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow job,” engaged the crowd early, and Malkmus responded by soloing behind his head. He then carried his expressive guitar work through the playful “Brain Gallop” and the angular “Spazz,” making up for his nonchalant vocal approach.

The show’s energy level fluctuated throughout, with the dour “Asking Price” wasting the momentum generated by the rollicking “Baby C’mon,” and some pockets of the audience seemed more interested in their Saturday-night chatter than in what was transpiring onstage. But the fans who remained engaged were rewarded with the fuzzy pop of “Stick Figures in Love” and the psychedelic groove of “Real Emotional Trash.”

Not surprisingly, Malkmus didn’t play any Pavement tunes. He covered “Hey Joe” and two Meat Puppets’ songs, “Up on the Sun” and “Away,” to conclude the show, which ended about 1:45 a.m. as casually and understated as it began. ★★★☆☆ – Sean DeFrank

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