Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks / Soccer Mommy Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver BC, August 3

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks / Soccer Mommy Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver BC, August 3
Photo: Kristina Kimlickova
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Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks took their "Hard Sparklin'" tour across the border yesterday, playing a laidback and witty show that was a hell of a lot of fun for both the band and audience.
 
Nashville-bred singer-songwriter, Sophie Allison, also known as Soccer Mommy, opened the night. She played solo in support of her acclaimed debut full-length, Clean, as well as with her band. The chattering crowd unfortunately obscured some of her clear, honest writing and subtly confident guitar playing, but by the end of her set the audience gave her a warm response.
 
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks drew a crowd that ranged in age from 19-year-olds to those in their 50s, younger audience members excitedly whispering about witnessing Malkmus the bona fide "rock star" for the first time. He certainly played the part once the band went onstage, delivering effortless solos and playing with his guitar behind his head. However, this was a show in support of Sparkle Hard, which is in some ways a mature record for the Jicks.
 
They had the audience bobbing their heads along to "Bike Lane," which explicitly references the killing of Freddie Gray, and the melancholy of "Middle America," too, was lapped up. That being said, the Jicks are great at jamming and playing off each other — whether it be in their stage banter or the most "rock" songs in their catalogue. The high energy of "Dark Wave" drove the night forward, as well as the band's knack for writing bridges that let them loosen up the arrangements: "Witch Mountain Bridge" and its bluesy sections; new song "Kite" and its spaced-out, textured soloing.
 
Malkmus was talkative as always — he told of his love for Vancouver and the fire emoji, decried borders and clubs named after marine life, and charmingly introduced his bandmates, brilliant musicians in their own right. Joanna Bolme's deep, full bass lines and intuitive playing grounded the songs — and she filled in for Kim Gordon on the clever pseudo-country track, "Refute," while Jake Morris drove the beat, reining in each track and letting the jams ride out. Keyboardist and guitarist Mike Clark had his moment to shine during the encore, accompanying Malkmus on a stripped-back rendition of "Freeze the Saints." Of course, this tender song featured Malkmus attempting his own tinny keyboard solo — with a few bum notes — much to the crowd's amusement.
 
It was the Pavement songs that revealed the strength of the (yes, really) circle pit to the outer edges of the audience: the band had to only so much as play the first minute or two of "Shady Lane" for the shoving to begin. They paused the track and bantered for several minutes before finishing it off to a calmer yet still passionate response. Concluding with "In the Mouth a Desert," concertgoers yelled along with Malkmus: "It's what I want!" They definitely got it.
 
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks don't take themselves too seriously, and they don't have to when they have the chops to put on such impressive, fun and engaging shows. Given the Rickshaw's response to last night's performance, they will be welcomed back for many years to come.
 
 

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