I'm a bit behind on this post but last Friday my friend Jason and I caught The Pixies in concert. The Pixies are one of my top 5 all time favorite bands and one of the last bands that I felt I utterly had to see live in concert. The Pixies are one of the proto-punk, alternative bands that were responsible for ushering in the alternative rock revolution of the early 1990's. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana called them one of his primary influences and claimed that Smells Like Teen Spirit was his own personal attempt to rip off the Pixies.
The band formed in the mid 80's and found some middling success with their first EP Come On Pilgrim and found slightly more with their first full length album Surfer Rosa, featuring soungs like Gigantic and Where Is My Mind. Though it was really the 1989 release of the seminal Doolittle Album that gave them a taste of success, with songs like Wave of Mutilation, Here Come's Your Man, and Debaser. The band was made up of leader singer Black Francis, bass player and back up vocalist Kim Deals (who would later form the Breeders with her twin sister), Lead guitarist Joey Santiago, and drummer David Lovering. The band is heavily influenced by religious and social imagery and has a sound that swings from vocally melodic to fast and abrasive. During their tenure from the late 80's to the early 90's, the band found huge success abroad in Europe, but only mild success in America. The recorded five albums, the height of which was Doolittle, before in fighting between the increasing controlling Francis and the angry and ostracized Deal. Deal wanted more input on the writing and creative side and Francis didn't want to relinquish control. The constant struggle between the two lead to the breakup.
Years later tensions lessened and the band agreed to play some reunion shows in Europe which led to the band playing more together. Much of the band's reformation is captured in the wonderful documentary loudQUIETloud, which chronicles the bands first tour in nearly 15 years. The success of that tour and the passing of time really showed the band the legacy they had left behind and have played more shows over the years. Last year they booked a few dates to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Doolittle and the success has carried the tour to additional dates, where I caught them in Mesa.
There was an opening act by a band that was called Fuck You. I don't even want to waste time talking about them as I hated them. It sounded like something a step above white noise, but cranked extremely loud. The Pixies took the stage around 9:15 and played nearly 2 whole hours. Since the tour was celebrating the Doolittle album, they played the album in its entirety, including some unreleased B sides. They played 20 full tracks off the album, ending with the song Gouge Away. My personal favorites were Here Comes Your Man and Debaser, as the crowds really got into those songs and enlivened the performance. After Gouge Away, the band left the stage as the audience chanted for more, and they came out to play the encore. They started with a variant take of Wave of Mutilation, which they had already played. This time they played the UK edit, a wonderfully slower version of the song that I'd never heard before and was awesome. They ended the encore with the song Into the White. One of the few Pixies tracks where Kim Deals is on the vocals, they flooded the stage with white smoke and played the song illuminated in a smokey shadow of white. It was a great effect that really sold the song. You couldn't see any of the performers, only their shadow, as Deal sung the haunting lyrics of Into the White. Amazing.
What was even better? They came out to do a second encore, playing 4 of their best non-Doolittle hits, starting with Veloria, then going into three of my favorite tracks, Dig For Fire, Where Is My Mind?, and ending with my favorite Pixies track, the Kim Deal sung Gigantic. It was an amazing end to an amazing performance. I couldn't believe my luck in getting to hear so many of my favorite tracks and the great stage value they gave in the show. It was even better that I got to share it with my best friend Jason, who rarely goes to shows anymore. Still, its been a great month for concerts for me, with The Pixies, Weezer, and Devo (all top 10 bands for me) this month. I always worried that I may never get the chance to see the Pixies play live, with the tensions and history of the band, and to be able to be a part of the show was fantastic.
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