I was psyched to see the Pixies live — and rightfully so. This is a legendary band that influenced legendary bands thereafter from Radiohead to Nirvana. This is the band whose music blared through the crappy speakers in my crappy car on repeat throughout high school — my Converse sneakered foot on the gas as my brother and I screamed along in gibberish to the weird magic that is Santa Rosa.
Turns out, I wasn’t as psyched as I should have been. I had (wrongly and shamefully) assumed that a Pixies show couldn’t possibly be as good as I imagined it was in its heyday.
And while I can’t speak to how awesome a Pixies show was in 1988, I also can’t imagine Frances Black and his fellow musicians rocking any harder than they did on Saturday night at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. True, there was no Kim Deal. That’s a major blow. But newcomer Paz Lenchantin (former bassist for A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgin’s Zwan) seemed at-home on stage and certainly held her own among the crunchy guitars, melodic and bizarre songwriting and the band’s characteristic push and pull between soft and loud sound.
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Photos by Nick King
The band started with “Bone Machine,” encored with “Debaser” and “Planet of Sound” and played every big song one could have reasonably wished for in between. (OK, I had my fingers crossed for “Broken Face,” but I knew it was a long shot.) And really, I would take the hundreds of people singing along to “Where Is My Mind?” over that one any day. We didn’t get much of the band’s new material, which, frankly, probably wasn’t much of a disappointment for most. Fan favorites like “Hey,” “My Velouria” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” were high points on the set list. Drummer David Loverling’s vocals on “La La Love You” was also met with overwhelming approval.
Perhaps another notable change over the years — besides Deal’s departure — is the audience make-up. Families with kids, khaki-clad, middle-aged men with their hands in their pockets and mohawked, headbanging high schoolers all rocked as one. I even spotted an infant with noise-blocking earmuffs being carried out of the show at the end of the night. (Sound asleep, no less.) I suppose that’s just what happens when a band tours for almost 30 years.
It’s worth mentioning that the opener, the NYC-based indie pop band Cults, put on a more-than-decent show. The band’s infectious and fun-loving song “Go Outside” was made popular by a camera ad, but the Cult’s dreamy-dark (and at times, aggressive) take on pop is much more complex than the 30-second commercial may imply. Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion make up the duo. The two were endearingly grateful and appropriately pumped to share the stage with the Pixies.
Where the audience got a shower of thank-yous from the Cults (for showing up early, etc.), the Pixies were all business. Apart from an almost comedically long guitar solo in which Joey Santiago made some interesting eye contact and performed a few strange hand gestures, the band members made no real acknowledgment that an audience existed. At the end of the show, the musicians simply raised their hands high and took a couple bows as the crowd let out a collective howl of approval.
But words weren’t needed to feel the love in the room — the whole band smiled broadly as we showered our adoration upon them. I guess when you’re the Pixies, you don’t have to make small talk with the audience. You just have to be the Pixies.