A powerful revival
No air conditioning, a wild stage-jumping fan, an endless wait ... and still thePixies put on an epic show
There is one thing that all fans of the reunited Pixies should understand: If you wanna rock with lead singer Frank Black, aka Black Francis, it's always going to be on his terms.
For Monday night's packed audience of aging modern rockers, nostalgists and youthful first-timers at the Verizon Verizon Wireless Theater, this meant forgoing air conditioning on a late summer night. We can only assume Black feels AC dries his pipes out too much or that the same problems that plagued the Angelika Film Center before it closed (under the same leasing company) as the Verizon are more prevalent than anyone realized in the complex.
Waiting over an hour in the thick air for the band to take the stage and nearly getting the night cut short by a rowdy fan during the encore finale was part of this night's "atmosphere."
Such is the drama of the Pixies. To enjoy a cathartic night reliving the unique surf rock-meets-pop-punk hits of a band that has reached legendary status since reforming in 2004, one has to be willing to deal with a certain level of discomfort and awkwardness. And in the end it's always Black's way or the highway.
It's representative of the entire Pixies mythology, a band that made four underappreciated masterpiece albums from 1988-1991 before dissolving into a quagmire of opposing artistic directions and bad feelings. By the mid-90s the band members were on to other projects (Black was working solo, Deal had moved on to The Breeders) and any notion of a Pixies reunion such as this show were squashed for the better part of a decade.
Strangely, the time away was the best thing that ever happened to the Pixies. By the time the band reformed in 2004 as a touring act (to this point they have released only one new song, "Bam Thwok," since rejoining forces) two things happened: Old wounds healed and several generations of music freaks found new appreciation for albums like Surfer Rosa,Tromp Le Monde and — the jewel in the crown — Doolittle.
At the Verizon Wireless Theater 25-song, 105-minute set, any harsh feelings between band members were hidden from sight. In fact, Black, Deal, guitarist Joy Santiago and drummer Dave Lovering seemed to be genuinely enjoying each other's company. And any harsh feelings between the band and the crowd for the heat and delays was quickly squashed when the hits and rarities started thumping through the house.
"The B-Sides!" screamed Deal to start the show before the dimly lit stage burst into the unexpected openers of "Dancing the Manta Ray," "Weird at My School" and "Bailey's Walk." All three songs were the "flip-side" to former singles and the least likely songs to even be played, much less open the show. The fact that the band has such confidence in even its most esoteric work is somewhat endearing.
It also made the expectation for the hits and favorites that much greater. When the blaring siren chords of "Debaser" finally rang through the theater, the standing-room only crowd on the floor exploded into a thrashing throng.
Much like Fleetwood Mac, part of the magic of the Pixies is the contrast between Black's brusque cries and Deal's sweet swoons. For "Wave of Mutilation," she cooed over Santiago's bass riff, while "Here Comes Your Man" is like having a devil (Black) and an angel (Deal) on each shoulder trying to sway the listener. A smoke-filled first encore of "Into The White," gave way to the Pixies arguably most well-known songs, "Where Is My Mind?" and "Gigantic."
Midway through the caustic "Where Is My Mind?" a fan jumped on stage and Black immediately dropped his guitar and walked off. That seemed to be the end, but the good-natured cajoling of his mates brought him back on stage after a few minutes.
The group picked the song up at the exact note they left off at and finished what will inevitably be remembered as one of the best shows at the Verizon Wireless Theater this year.