By John Curley
The Pixies stormed into New York City this past week for four shows—three at Bowery Ballroom and one at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg—as well as an appearance as the musical guest on NBC-TV’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The veteran quartet proved that they are still a viable, and quite explosive, band in concert. At their show on Friday, September 20th at Bowery Ballroom, The Pixies were firing on all cylinders, playing the old favorites from their heyday in the late 1980s and the early 1990s as well as the recent single “Bagboy” and tracks from their recently released EP, titled EP1. The September 20th concert was the final show of The Pixies’ North American tour.
One of the biggest questions that fans had going into this tour was how would the band fare live given the departure of bassist Kim Deal earlier this year. Fortunately, the answer to that question is quite well. New recruit Kim Shattuck is a talented musician and her backing vocals are quite similar to those of Kim Deal. In the one onstage nod to Deal’s departure, Black Francis sang the lead vocal to “In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song).” That part had previously been handled in concert by Deal.
As many bands age, their sound changes to reflect that. That isn’t true of The Pixies. They are every bit as ferocious as they were in the 1980s. The loud/quiet/loud dynamic of their songs that inspired a thousand grunge bands in the early 1990s (most famously Nirvana) is still very much intact. Drummer David Lovering’s playing is still machine-gun explosive. Black Francis can still howl with the best of ‘em. And Joey Santiago holds it all together with his phenomenal guitar playing. Why isn’t Santiago ever mentioned when great rock guitarists are discussed? Santiago’s guitar work on “Vamos” at the Bowery Ballroom show was jaw dropping.
Like any other veteran band, The Pixies included quite a few crowd pleasers in their set. Starting off the show with “Wave Of Mutiation (UK Surf)” drove the crowd into a frenzy. Other highlights of The Pixies’ 95-minute set included terrific performances of “Here Comes Your Man,” “Where Is My Mind?,” “Vamos,” “Gouge Away,” “Monkey Gone To Heaven,” and an absolutely incredible “Planet Of Sound.” The biggest hand of the night went to the frenetic performance of “Allison.” Many in the audience were jumping up and down in time with the song.
Of the new songs, “Indie Cindy,” “Bagboy,” and “What Goes Boom” were the standouts. “What Goes Boom,” in particular, sounds like a classic Pixies song that could’ve been recorded in 1988. The new material shows that The Pixies do not want to be a mere nostalgia act for aging Generation Xers. It will be interesting to hear what they come up with on their next recording.
The Brooklyn-based punk-rock quartet Parquet Courts opened the proceedings with a blazing 30-minute set. Hardly taking any pause between songs, Parquet Courts maximized their stage time. The band features Andrew Savage on guitar and lead vocals, Austin Brown on guitar, Sean Yeaton on bass, and Andrew’s brother, Max Savage, on drums. Parquet Courts received quite a reaction from the crowd and seem like a band with a very promising future. The Seth Rogen lookalike who was dancing around wildly during Parquet Courts’ set and bumping into everyone around him certainly seemed to enjoy them.
The Pixies begin a two-month European tour on September 25th at the Roundhouse in London.
The Pixies’ setlist at Bowery Ballroom on September 20th was as follows:
Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)
In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song)
Here Comes Your Man
Motorway To Roswell
Where Is My Mind?
Blue Eyed Hexe
Ed Is Dead
I’ve Been Tired
Another Toe In The Ocean
What Goes Boom
Big New Prinz (cover of song by The Fall)
Greens and Blues
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Planet Of Sound
Wave Of Mutilation