Way back in 2004, the Pixies chose Minneapolis's Fine Line Music Cafe as the spot to open their first tour in 12 years. As documented in the excellent loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies, Twin Cities music fans (well, the lucky few who were able to squeeze into the 775-capacity club) got to witness the reunited alt-rock heroes being born again.
At that point in the story, the band showed up to play a collection of their most-loved songs to an adoring audience. This was before drummer David Lovering's father passed away, before the rest of the band worried about his subsequent substance abuse issues, and before everyone fell back into bad habits. The four musicians who inspired Kurt Cobain to write "Smells Like Teen Spirit" were simply back together. Everything had that new smell, like a Doolittle vinyl reissue fresh out of its packaging.
Conversely, Lovering, singer/guitarist Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago, and touring bassist Paz Lenchantin visited Minneapolis again Saturday night -- only this time the record was headed back into its sleeve. The Pixies' sold-out show at the State Theatre was the second-to-last date on the final leg of a year-long world tour (133 concerts in 41 countries) in support of this year's Indie Cindy album. Whereas a decade ago Minneapolis was treated to a "We'll see if this works" approach, Saturday's gig was more "We know this works."[jump]
Indie Cindy, the Pixies' fifth full-length LP and first since 1991, didn't exactly get the best reviews from fans or critics. To be fair, it's an extremely tall order to craft a worthy follow-up to four records that averaged a 9.6/10 from the notoriously hard-to-please Pitchfork. The new effort was still very well-represented at the State, with seven of its 12 songs seeing action. However, no two Indie Cindy songs were ever played consecutively -- new cuts like "Greens and Blues" and "Bagboy" were punctuated by old warhorses like "Gouge Away" and "Caribou." This didn't always make for the most fluid setlist, but it was certainly smart of Francis & co. to constantly remind the crowd of the classics.
When the new cuts weren't being showcased, the setlist read like a linear trip through the Pixies catalog. The first two songs of the night, "Ed Is Dead" and "Nimrod's Son," came from the band's debut mini-album, 1987's Come On Pilgrim. The next 20th-century Pixies song played, "Where Is My Mind," was taken from their next release, proper full-length debut Surfer Rosa. Whether intentional or not, the rest of the night played out like this, too -- no Bossanova song was tried until Doolittle had been represented, and Trompe Le Monde would get no love until the band showed off a Bossanova track.
Is a trip through the Pixies catalog complete without indie-rock anthems "Wave of Mutilation" and "Monkey Gone to Heaven"? The band seemed to think so Saturday night, as two of the better known songs from their most celebrated album, 1989's Doolittle, were noticeably absent. This was a head-scratcher, considering that the same record's "Mr. Grieves" and "Crackity Jones" -- I'm going to tread lightly by saying that they're not the most essential songs on Doolittle -- got airtime.
It's not as if the Pixies ever set the Top 40 on fire, but the lack of these two crowd-pleasers made it even more ballsy to play the set's two lone hits, "Where Is My Mind?" and "Here Comes Your Man," within the first nine songs. This was followed by 23 songs that most Billboard readers have never heard of, but that was just fine for the 2,200-strong crowd, who were instead treated to plenty of deep cuts, including Come On Pilgim's "The Holiday Song" and Surfer Rosa's "Brick Is Red."
Speaking of absenteeism, one of the most charming moments of loudQUIETloud takes place backstage at the Fine Line, when former bassist/vocalist Kim Deal (she exited the band last year) is overwhelmed by the crowd's enthusiastic response to the Minnesota gig. "I was fucking freaking out..." she tells Francis. "They were so happy that we were here and we were playing!"[page]
It's safe to say that Deal would've been pleased with the audience's reaction to what was played at the State. "Here Comes Your Man" predictably received rapturous applause, as did Lovering's vocal turn on another Doolittle cut, "La La Love You." Later, the room was in awe as Santiago showed off his unconventional six-string chops during an extended "Vamos" solo, playing his guitar with a sweat-stained towel, flipping the axe backward to manipulate it with his torso and unplugging his guitar cable and using his hand to create otherworldly sound effects.
Deal's touring replacement, Lenchantin, never really got her turn in the spotlight, but her strong performance didn't go unnoticed. The veteran bassist did spot-on Deal impressions in "Hey" and "Debaser," and the energy with which she played her instrument clearly carried over to the rest of the band.
Singer/guitarist Francis was also in fine form, his signature yelps and screams still powerful almost three decades into the band's career. However, he did shy after from one typical frontman duty -- the closest he ever came to addressing the crowd was by playing "Hey." Then again, when you're trying to cram 32 songs into a two-hour set, there's not much room for "We love you, Minneapolis!"
The Pixies have no dates on the books after Sunday night's concert in Madison. Here's hoping they'll tour again, but this chapter of the Pixies story does feel oddly complete. They did those initial reunion gigs 10 years ago, there was a tour celebrating the legacy of Doolittle a few years back, and now they've traveled the world on the back of a new album. What else is there left to do?
Besides play "Monkey Gone to Heaven," of course.
Random Notebook Dumps: Near the end of his band's 35-minute opening set, Royal Blood drummer Ben Thatcher came out into the crowd to rouse the polite yet seated audience into standing. Rumor has it that the Pixies dismissed Kim Deal's original replacement, Kim Shattuck, because she went into the crowd during a show. Good thing the tour's almost over...
The Crowd: Mostly standing on the main floor, despite the always attractive option of sitting. The beautiful State Theatre was an odd choice for a Pixies show, because who wants to have elbow room during an encore of "Debaser" and "Planet of Sound"?
Ed Is Dead
Where Is My Mind?
Brick Is Red
The Holiday Song
Here Comes Your Man
La La Love You
Greens and Blues
No. 13 Baby
Isla de Encanta
What Goes Boom
I've Been Tired
Blue Eyed Hexe
Something Against You
The Sad Punk
Planet of Sound
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