The Pixies at the Aragon Ballroom in November. Ah, déjÃ vu. Seems like this happened five years ago (because it did, more or less). A set chock full of old jams, no new material in sight, smiling faces in the crowd and on the stage.There were still a few surprises (a giant video board, pre-show advertisements for USB wristbands at the merch booth), but this is the same Pixies from 2004.
If you don’t know the Pixies story, here’s a brief overview: the 87 founded Boston, Mass. quartet produced five great albums (including two masterpieces) before breaking up in 93. The group’s edgy, weird alternative rock influenced a generation of musicians (Thom Yorke, Kurt Cobain and Rivers Cuomo have all credited the Pixies for their game-changing influence). 2004 saw the group reuniting, releasing one new song, and touring the country. Bassist Kim Deal had been playing with the Breeders, front man Black Francis released a few records as Frank Black, guitarist Joey Santiago scored film and television work and drummer Dave Lovering worked on his magic. Yeah. His magic.
Now, five years later, there’s been talk of a new album. But, that still hasn’t happened, so another live show will have to do. This time, instead of playing most of the tracks from the legendary Doolittle, the tour called for the band to play the entire thing from start to finish. As the crowd started to get out of control, the giant video screen behind the stage filled with spliced together scenes of Salvador Dali’s legendary Un Chien Andalou. The film was the lyrical inspiration for Doolittle hit “Debaser”: “slicing up eyeballs” comes directly from the film and that explicit shot was on display for a while.
The group eventually found their way onstage, opening with a brief set of B-sides from Doolittle singles. Both Manta Ray tunes swayed, but the “B-side so obscure we had to learn it” (as Deal put it), “Bailey’s Walk” may have been the strongest. What came next was exactly what anyone who’s seen the Pixies before, or heard the album more than a few times, would guess. The thrill-seeking anthem “Debaser” hummed along with Santiago’s shuddering, noisy guitar. Blacks howls on “Tame” seethed with the same aggression as they did in 2004. The video accompaniment for this hyper-charged gem perfectly matched the song’s slightly sexual, very angry tone: shots of mannequin parts swapped back and forth with a giant bull’s skull.
The video for “Here Comes Your Man” was also particularly charming. Four, Brady Bunch-esque boxes contained each of the band members heads’, bobbing and mugging along with the tune. Long-time fan favorite “Monkey Gone To Heaven” may have had the loudest crowd reaction; the song was more sing-along than performance. But, this was true for a good deal of the show, because that’s just what a performance like this is for. The Pixies were thanking their old fans and initiating the new ones by recreating, to a degree, what it would have been like seeing them in the Doolittle era.
The encores featured a couple more B-sides (the Deal-sung “Into the White” and the delightfully slinky “UK Surf” rendition of “Wave of Mutilation”). Later, Santiago flailed at his guitar with a drumstick during “Vamos”, everyone in the house falsetto’d along with Deal on “Where is My Mind?”, Lovering thumped through “Gigantic”, and Black screamed through “Something Against You”.
The show certainly was a crowd pleaser in every sense of the term. The b-sides were great for hardcore fans, the front-to-back album performance encapsulated the joy of hearing Doolittle for the first time and the band seemed to enjoy it, despite having done this as many times as they have. I’d probably see them every five years without any new material, but the promise of a new album is exciting news indeed.
Dancing The Manta Ray
Weird At My School
Wave of Mutilation
Here Comes Your Man
Monkey Gone To Heaven
La La Love You
No. 13 Baby
There Goes My Gun
Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
Into The White
Something Against You
Where Is My Mind?