By John Curley
The Pixies formed in 1986. Since this year marks the band’s 29th anniversary, one might assume that the band might have mellowed a bit with age and taken some of the edge out of their music. Anyone making that assumption would be wrong. The Pixies have lost none of their bark, and even less of their bite. They howled, roared, and rocked their way through an absolutely incendiary concert at New York City’s beautiful, ornate, and historic Beacon Theatre on Wednesday, May 27th. The sold-out crowd rose up from their seats when The Pixies hit the stage and remained standing for the rest of the show.
Despite a snafu causing the band to start, stop, and start again on the opening song of their set, “Something Against You,” they regrouped quickly and treated the audience to a tour de force 100-minute show. The set mixed their better-known songs with newer tunes and B-sides. And it never let up. The Pixies hardly paused for breath after finishing one song before charging full speed ahead into the next one. The rhythm section of drummer David Lovering and bassist Paz Lenchantin set the foundation with Lovering’s machine-gun like percussion and Lenchantin’s atmospheric bass work. Atop this, the guitars of Joey Santiago and Black Francis howled, screamed, and snarled alongside Francis’ hellhound-on-my-trail lead vocals. Lenchantin’s backing vocals served as the calm to the storm being created center stage by Francis.
One of many great things about The Pixies is that their songs can seem to go from zero to 50 in a nanosecond. Their legendary loud / quiet / loud dynamic has songs starting soft and melodic and soaring to a roar and then back again very quickly. But that is not to say that The Pixies are mere noise merchants. The songs also leave plenty of room for the guitars to shimmer and shine.
The energy that The Pixies were generating onstage was infectious, and the crowd at the Beacon Theatre lapped it up. Since the audience was so pumped up and stood for the entire show, there were no standing-ovation moments per se. But the audience reaction to nearly every song was so powerful that the show seemed at times to be a total two-way lovefest between the crowd and the band. The concert was packed with highlights, starting with the blistering opener “Something Against You.” It seemed like most of the crowd was singing along with “U-Mass.” “What Goes Boom,” one of the newer tracks, got a nice reaction as did “Indie Cindy,” the title track to The Pixies’ 2014 album. And of course, the best-known songs, such as “Subbacultcha,” “Monkey Gone To Heaven,” “Here Comes Your Man,” “Where Is My Mind?,” “Wave Of Mutilation,” “Nimrod’s Son,” and particularly “Debaser,” all went down a storm, drawing huge cheers from the ecstatic audience. The encore, “Vamos,” served as a showcase for Santiago and his inventive guitar histrionics. Holding his guitar in all kinds of positions and eliciting Morse-code-like bleats and blasts from it, Santiago egged on the crowd to cheer even louder with every different move.
The sound mix at the show was quite good, particularly during The Pixies’ more melodic tunes. And the overall sound for the show was likely aided by the great acoustics at the Beacon Theatre.
The 40-minute set by opening act John Grant received a nice hand from the crowd. A Colorado native now living in Iceland, Grant delivered songs filled with acerbic and sometimes funny lyrics. He was backed by a keyboardist and a guitarist.
The Pixies also played at the Beacon Theatre on the previous night. They concluded their three-night stand in New York City with a show at Brooklyn’s renovated and recently reopened Kings Theatre on Thursday, May 28th. The Pixies’ North American tour continues into June and features several shows with Robert Plant. They will also be performing at Riot Fest in Denver, CO in August. Full tour dates can be found at http://www.pixiesmusic.com/new/.
The Pixies’ set list at the Beacon Theatre on Wednesday, May 27th was as follows:
Something Against You
Isla de Encanta
Head On (cover of song by The Jesus and Mary Chain)
What Goes Boom
The Sad Punk
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Here Comes Your Man
Where Is My Mind?
Greens And Blues
In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song) (cover of song by David Lynch)
The Holiday Song
No. 13 Baby
I’ve Been Tired
Wave Of Mutilation