"Ah-ooo!" Stephen Malkmus said back to the whooping, sold-out Fillmore at the TLA crowd Saturday night, two songs into his 85-minute set. "Phil-lay!" enthused the Jicks bandleader. "Filet mignon; Philadelphia mignon - that's what kind of steak this town is."
Still pegged from his days leading the defunct Pavement as "the slacker prince of 1990s indie rock" (as the New York Times called him Friday), Malkmus may still exhibit the winning nonchalance that likely prompted Courtney Love to dub him "the Grace Kelly" of same last decade - but the Stockton, Calif., dude can work a crowd.
He did it at the TLA chiefly with luminous word-playful songs from his latest album,
Real Emotional Trash
, accompanied by a trio of fellow Portland-based Jicks. His laconic vocals and generous splashes of Tom Verlaine-toned Fender Jazzmaster guitar were enhanced by new drummer Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney/Quasi fame. The title track featured six-string flourishes worthy of Thin Lizzy and Allmans comparisons.
The encore set was juiced by an unexpected cover of the Beatles' "Taxman," with Malkmus characteristically taking liberties in his drawling vocals on the George Harrison tune - although never in caricature - and fashioning a fresh take on the original Paul McCartney (true) guitar solo.
Last up was the gorgeous rock-waltz "Church on White" off his 2001 debut solo album, as fetching a number as most any top-shelf Pavement track. Before exiting he thanked the openers and "those two guys who came from Erie." Workin' it.
Said openers were John Vanderslice and three bandmates "from San Francisco . . . home of the $1,700 one-bedroom" as the namesake front man noted.
Singer-guitarist Vanderslice drew heavily from his fine 2007 album
, full of foreboding imagery - the title refers to Baghdad's Green Zone - yet buoyed by distinctly tuneful rock.