As a 24-year-old who, in the 80’s, could barely walk, eat or piss in a toilet, I never had the privilege of seeing the Pixies (I know. My mother wasn’t cool or insane enough to take a 5-year-old to see an angry noisy band. Shocker). Yet, through reputation and dozens of bands spouting them as influence, by sophomore year in high school, I became a devoted fan and many of my musical influences (today) can be linked to those Pixies records.
So, when you hear that the Pixies are playing in November of 2009, you geek out and jump at the chance to see them with the hopes that the band will retain some of that brilliance and mystique that we’ve built up in our heads.
I must mention that I saw the Pixies play four years ago at the San Jose Civic Auditoriumon. This was during their first leg of the (now seemingly) never-ending reunion tour (only matched by Cher). It was kick to see them that first time, though I felt their presence and energy was a little flat and stale. So I was let down, but the fact that I saw the Pixies was good enough for me… at least for the first time around.
In 2005, I geeked out for that first show and blew my load on what was probably (in hindsight) a sub-par live show. NOW, this was my second time around and being a much more experienced Pixies live show blowjob receiver, I was hoping for something better (and more authentic).
But… I got the same deal (and her tits didn’t seduce as they did the first time around).
Here’s what went down: the show at the Hollywood Palladium was a live act version of the Pixies most popular, accessible, polished sounding album, “Doolittle” (which has got to be on everyone’s top 10 influential indie records from the 1980’s). This concept of knowing what songs us fans will be getting lets us set the bar really high for our expectations. And, no matter if some of the sound has decayed, we’re still gonna be satisfied because it will trigger some of that feeling we got when we first heard the Pixies in our youth.
The band busted out the gate with “Debaser” – a classic Pixies song that blends pop hook sensibilities with bratty, lunatic like guitar work and lyrics.
On came, “Tame” – that required Frank Black to scream at the chorus… which he now fails to do. “Wave of Mutilation” and “Here Comes Your Man” were done very well and pleased the crowd immensely. And so on and son.
That’s the problem: nothing stood out and no real variation from the album happened. What’s the point of a live show if all we get is a studio album?
The band played their less-rough, most pop-sounding, accessible songs (“Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven”) really well. Partly because those tunes are simpler to play and don’t require as much stress and strain on the goods that these band members had to have back in the late 80’s. Where they struggled to retain that magic were songs that required Frank Black to attempt to call on the vocals of his younger days.
Frank Black, once sounded like a hormonal teen full of angst, twisted scratch and wailing vocals – he now sounds like an old, gruff, tired man who just can’t, physically, get to where his vocals need to go to keep up with the music. And I’m not sure what’s better: to at least see the Pixies and hear Frank Black sing in this manner or to just remember what the Pixies were and leave it at that?
Joey Santiago’s guitar work is impressively as sharp as ever. They guy hasn’t lost a step and he can still wail out those unique, classic Pixies sound even 20 years later. Kim Deal was sharp and it’s always a kick to see someone as iconic as her to casually swig beers and smile (especially from someone who was in both of your favorite bands from your teens years: Breeders).
A big complaint is that the band didn’t play to the crowd or have any showmanship. They came out, busted out their classics, and bounced. Maybe the fact that this was the 3rd show in a row at the Palladium had something to do with that. But I saw a very similar, impersonal show 4 years ago in San Jose. I’m just wondering if the show suffers a bit due to our perception that these guys are possibly just doing this whole shtick for the cash.
The cold hard fact is, in 2009, it’s cooler to SAY you’re seeing the Pixies than ACTUALLY seeing them. Because in 2009, they just don’t live up to all the hype that we’ve come to know and love. And that’s not their fault. That’s time’s fault and what age does to a singer’s voice. It’s time’s fault what age does to a band’s energy and charisma. And it’s OUR fault for not buying enough records to make them really want to do a live tour with passion.
It’s always a great treat to get a blast from the past from a band that painted my horny-driven teen years, but… saying you saw the Pixies in 2009 will definitely get you a little street cred and will probably get you laid by some hipster floozie, even though the 2009 product doesn’t live up to the 1988 output.
3 Guns (I mean, come on, it’s still the fucking Pixies).
* Does writing about how you saw the Pixies get you laid by a hipster floozie?
* Pixies are probably on that “well, got to see them before they die” list (maybe – 2nd tier).
* TOP tier Bands/Artists on the “See-Before-They-Die” List: Lou Reed, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Patti Smith., Paul McCartney, The Who, Leonard Cohen, Iggy Pop, Pavement, Sonic Youth. – Who’s on your list?
* Is it better to see these bands/artists now or to just remember them for what they were? And if we think they still are amazing today – are we just tricking ourselves to believe this (and to justify us paying for the high ticket price)?
* Pixies Song favorites of mine: “Mr. Grieves,” “La La Love You,” “Gouge Away.”
* I love “Doolittle” but I think I prefer “Surfer Rosa.” – It just has a more fractured, anxiety- driven rougher sound that I like. With the way things are going, well be seeing a live “Surfer Rosa” reunion tour soon…. Or shit, a Come on “Pilgrim EP” tour…?
* Paying respect and being honest about what you are viewing should go hand-in-hand… right?
* Is it me or does Frank Black seem like a man who doesn’t feel content with his legacy?