All that to say, just having the band all perform on the same stage for the first time in 12 years at the Fonda in Los Angeles on Monday night would have been quite a special moment for the band’s middle-aged fan base. to remember. (Fonda’s gig was a last-minute warm-up to a bigger tour that begins with a headlining spot at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona in a few weeks, before a tour that includes a return to Los Angeles at the Orpheum. much bigger for three nights in September.) The fact that the band played a sprawling, rarity-laden set in the small venue was just a bonus for the sold-out crowd, many of whom clearly couldn’t believe it. their eyes and ears at the start of a long chaotic retreat. rockers like “Transport Is Arranged” (played for the first time since 1996), “Type Slowly” (not played since 1997, and here stuck in heady psychedelia) and “Fame Throwa” (an ultra-deep cut from the band’s early days , “Slanted and Enchanted”, and not touched on stage since 1993).
Of course, more recognizable songs were also on the setlist, like the band’s authentic hit from its heyday, “Cut Your Hair,” and the unlikely viral hit “Harness Your Hopes.” The band members’ performances fell squarely into well-worn roles: frontman Stephen Malkmus giving off a sort of laid-back, disposable vibe during even the most jagged guitar rockers; hypeman/percussionist Bob Nastanovic acting almost as a gregarious foil, sometimes even interrupting Malkmus’ thanks to insert a few words of his own; drummer Steve West and bassist Mark Ibold frequently deflecting complex rhythm changes with can-you-believe-we-riding-this-wave eye-rolls, and guitarist Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg acting as his he was just part of it. (After “Two States,” a song Kannberg sings and performed with various side projects, he said, “Doesn’t that sound better with this band?”) Rebecca Cole, touring percussionist/key, a new addition to the group, held on, hitting the high notes where Malkmus ostensibly can’t and trading winning smiles with Nasanovic.
It’s not, and never was, a band with crazy production or dynamics, just six guys (and now girls) playing offbeat songs in an offbeat way. But when these songs are so beloved by such a dedicated audience, hearing them live again is almost divine; the only question is how long the band itself is in tune.