The Pixies, Royal Blood
October 11, 2014
There’s a lot that can be said about The Pixies and their 2014 tour—well, about any tour of theirs this millennia, really. I’ll cut 90% of that out, though—briefly reflecting on their bass situation—and just talk about the show. The rest is…well…we all have our opinions, man.
After a bus snafu, I entered the venue as Royal Blood left the stage so I didn’t get to see them. I was curious about how their energy would be, as their record is filled with groove-heavy guitar—always a plus for a live act in a setting with good sound. Instead, I found my seat (yes, it was a seated venue), got an overpriced drink (yes, it was that kind of venue), and got ready to watch The Pixies, formed in 1986, for the first time. It was a mixed group of people in the theatre, with many grey-haired professionals standing side-by-side with younger generations, a mix of first-timers such as myself and those who knew what to expect.
Entering to “Ed Is Dead,” it was clear early on that this was a show for the fans. Opening with a classic and little fanfare in terms of making a stage entrance, they jumped into playing and didn’t slow that pace over the next 90 minutes. In fact, the band didn’t address the crowd once, and barely seemed to address one another. They were strictly professional: playing their set, basking in the stage lighting and fog machines, and hitting their notes while mixing up a playlist behind their back catalogue from the 20th Century alongside their newest material, Indie Cindy. Based on audience reaction, many in the crowd hadn’t heard the new songs but they gave them attention rather than heading for the bar. While I did mention the seating situation earlier, the crowd all stood and danced throughout (at least on the floor level of the historic theatre). While it was unclear how the band themselves felt about their show, given their non-existent acknowledgement of the crowd, it remained clear that the audience got what they wanted.
The elephant in the room was the new line-up, with founder Kim Deal having left the group in 2013. She has not been replaced, but instead the band has hired touring stand-ins—Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) on Saturday night. The set wisely waited to introduce her, kicking off with songs featuring Black Francis on vocals, while she added capable backing touches. Midway through, they raised the bar by playing “Debaser” and it went seamlessly. While Deal’s departure is nothing to write off—her basswork defines the band’s sound in many ways, the set was powerful and effective without her presence. In fact, Lenchantin and drummer David Lovering were, by far, the most enthusiastic and entertaining performers in the band with Lenchantin reading the rhythm off Lovering. She clearly enjoyed playing with the Pixies.
Rounding out the group, guitarist Joey Santiago mostly kept to himself on the left of the stage, playing spot-on and seemingly lost in the music, and occasionally acknowledging Black Francis in the center as their picked out their set. For the most part, the spotlights hit Black Francis in the center, with Lovering getting some of that center stage aspect, including when he sang in “La La Love You.” Francis was fun to watch—his whooping and yelping are still in the right key and the right spot, and they seem just as random and inspired as on record. Otherwise, his vocals tended to be more powerful in the rockers. As the set progressed, he grew a bit weary, vocally, and the more somber songs sounded coarse from life on the road. While classics like “Here Comes Your Man” and “Caribou” are some of their best material, they didn’t hit quite as hard live. He was noticeable more enthusiastic during the newer songs.
The real takeaway from a live aspect was volume. I think I’ve always known the Pixies were a loud band, but that early ‘90s production didn’t do it justice. When they amp up the guitars they play real earplug music, where they bring the rock in a heavier fashion than Black’s V-neck T-shirt had you ready for. The dynamic shifts are still as powerful as ever and the lighting, while maybe a touch overdone, complemented the epic status as they hit those big notes.
In the end, seeing the Pixies is worth it for the first time. No, it’s not the original band and I feel like the dynamic would have been different had it been, but the songs live on, and a show is as much audience as it is band. The sound from the stage was very good, the setlist was satisfying (no “Gigantic,” but I didn’t expect it with this line-up), and it was more entertaining than not. Still, it felt a little awkward that they played 32 songs over 90 minutes, but didn’t take the time to say “hello” or “thank you”—to the audience or, seemingly, to each other. I kept waiting for that wall to break down, but it never happened. For a band as influential as the Pixies have been, the live show, while satisfying, didn’t leave me very inspired. Later that night, I was more excited about running into a friend downtown and getting a beer to catch up than I was about the show I’d just seen. I think that sums it up.
Ed Is Dead
Indie Cindy ?
Where Is My Mind? ?
Brick Is Red ?
The Holiday Song
Here Comes Your Man
La La Love You
Greens and Blues ?
No. 13 Baby ?
Magdalena 318 ?
Rock Music ?
Isla de Encanta ?
Mr. Grieves ?
Crackity Jones ?
Bone Machine ?
What Goes Boom
I've Been Tired ?
Blue Eyed Hexe ?
Broken Face ?
Something Against You ?
The Sad Punk ?
Planet of Sound
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