The Pixies Comerica Theatre 2/24/14
In the darkened setting of Comerica Theatre on Monday night, it was easy to close your eyes and imagine the floaty female harmonies are those of the Pixies' original bassist, Kim Deal. It wasn't, of course, as those harmonies belonged to Paz Lenchantin, a more than exceptional substitute for the fiery Deal.
In the early days of the influential rock band, Deal was crucial in driving the tension with her heavy basslines and countering vocals, which nicely balanced Joey Santiago's stinging guitar leads and Charles Thompson's (Black Francis/Frank Black) scream-filled outbursts.
There were more pleasant moments as well, like the warm glow of "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and heart-tugging of "Velouria"-- a couple of the band's more pop-like moments -- but really, the Pixies thrived on that tension and energy.
Moreover, while Lenchantin was excellent on this evening as the Pixies' current bassist, what she couldn't fix was the sluggishness of much of the newer material, which was recorded without Deal. It was during many of the new songs -- "Magdalena," "Blue Eyed Hexe," "Greens and Blues" and "What Goes Boom," among others -- that the concert was bogged down. The exceptions were the chugging "Bagboy," which, probably due to heavy video play, garnered more crowd attention and recognition, and "Indie Cindy," with its distant familiarity.
That said, it's not unexpected that fans might not know these songs very well, or want anything less than the classic post-punk thrashers and quirky rockers they grew up with, but it was undeniable that the early edge wasn't there. As the guy near me pointed out: "Slow new song equals pee break. Bye."
The crowd bobbed, danced, and cheered as the classics kept coming in the form of a blistering "Velouria," gritty "Gouge Away," sinister "Mr. Grieves," racing "The Sad Punk" and downright stunning "Nimrod's Son."
Of course, some "mellower" moments -- that is, songs with slower starts or rolling tempos that eventually explode in waves of sound and fury -- included a wrenching "Cactus," angelic "Caribou," and dreamy "Where is My Mind?" "Havalina" seemed like a no-brainer as well, given the Sedona/Arizona desert theme. The crowd loved it, of course.
All told, the 31-song set mixed plenty of old favorites with perhaps a few too many new numbers. "Vamos" wrapped the main set and a scorching "Planet of Sound" put a solid stamp on the evening. Post-punk heroes in the 1980s and '90s, the Pixies easily showed why they still belong.
Set List: "Bone Machine" "Wave of Mutilation" "Head On" "Isla de Encanta" "U-Mass"
"Ana" "Velouria" "Havalina" "Magdalena" "Cactus" "Gouge Away" "Mr. Grieves" "What Goes Boom" "Something Against You" "Monkey Gone to Heaven" "Caribou" "Bagboy" "Blue Eyed Hexe" "The Sad Punk" "I've Been Tired" "Snakes" "Silver Snail" "Brick Is Red" "Nimrod's Son" "Indie Cindy"" "Heaven"/"Andro Queen" "Where Is My Mind" "Greens and Blues" "Vamos" "Planet of Sound"
Last Night: The Pixies at Comerica Theatre
Personal Bias: Third time seeing the Pixies, the first was in 1992, then again in 2004. Never been disappointed.
The Crowd: A real mix of younger fans checking out this iconic band and older fans remembering the good old days.
Random Notebook Dump: "Only Frank Black would write a song about a hairy pig."
Overheard: "I didn't even know your father the first time I heard this band." -- Mother to her teenage son.
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