Following some glorious U.K. shows (QRO tour preview), Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks headed to continental Europe, and after Zurich (where, surprise surprise, they played Pavement’s “Zurich Is Stained”!) they stopped in Italy for one-off show in the foggy Milan on Saturday the 19th of November. The gig was originally scheduled at Magazzini Generali, a medium-sized venue on the outskirts of the glamorous city, but a few weeks ago it was moved to the smaller Tunnel, an intimate club with only 300-capacity near the Central Station. The Jicks always work better in tiny venues, but the result was a totally packed show and a nearly tropical temperature, which Joanna Bolme, the lovely bass player, seemed to particularly have found uncomfortable.
Supported by London-based Weird Dreams, who have been opening for The Jicks at all their European dates (with the only exception of Manchester where Girls supported them), Malkmus & co. came on stage at 9.15pm, perfectly on time as usual. Setting the mood with old hit “Jenny & The Ess-dog” from first self-titled album, in the first part of the show they mainly played tunes from new album Mirror Traffic (QRO review – highlight was the atmospheric, Daddy Cool-esque “Brian Gallop”), mixing them up with a couple of new songs (“Scategories”, performed live a few times before, and totally new “Plu Spare”).
Apart from a warm greeting at the beginning and a few “grazie”s (“thank you” in Italian) from Malkmus, the band seemed on good form but oddly quiet and not too prone to their usual banter. But halfway through, after the enthusiastic reception of fans’ favourite “Animal Midnight”, and even more after the crowd went crazy when Malkmus introduced new album’s lead single “Senator” with, “This goes to fucking Berlusconi” (who, let’s face it, was an easy target….), things seemed to become really interesting. The second half of the gig was left to a lot of improvisation and covers: after “J Smoove” (another new song) The Jicks covered Sweet’s “Love Is Like Oxygen” and The Who’s “My Generation” (which wasn’t on the set list), then started playing “Real Emotional Trash” (from eponymous fourth album – QRO review), but at the end of the first solo guitar the song got truncated by a short cover of Gorillaz’s (QRO album review) “Clint Eastwood”.
After a beautiful version of “Baby C’mon” from Face the Truth, the band left the stage for a short break. The encore wasn’t on the set list, which in the case of The Jicks is always a good sign, as that means they accept requests from fans or improvise anyway. As a few people were shouting “Discretion Grove” that was what they ended up opening the encore with. The same group of guys then requested “No More Shoes” but Malkmus pretended to be upset, hurling an unusual, “Noooooo, no no more shoes,” and made a joke about calling the security; Mirror‘s “No One Is (As I Are Be)” was performed instead. A medley of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” and Joy Division’s “Radio Transmission” concluded this awesomely entertaining show.