Review: Pixies sparkle at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Black Francis of the Pixies (AFP PHOTO/Pablo PORCIUNCULA)
Published Tuesday, December 5, 2017 11:22AM PST
Bands reuniting for a second bite at the rock and roll cherry have become so commonplace over the past decade; the news of another major reformation barely raises an eyebrow. And yet, when The Pixies announced that they’d patched up their differences back in 2004, rock fans across the world understandably started frothing with excitement. As 2017 comes to its conclusion, The Pixies have been in reunion mode far longer than they were a group during their original rise to glory; a stretch when they redefined how a rock band could look, sound, and even what they could write about.
This extended reconciliation is no bad thing. Because on the form they showed at last night’s concert at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre, this is still a band that can conjure moments of magic.
They’re still doing it their own way too, strolling on stage and launching into a high speed “Wave of Mutilation” without a word of introduction. A barrage of songs, including “Something Against You” and “Isla de Incanta,” flew by; their velocity only matched by their innate heaviness, all accompanied by singer Black Francis (real name Charles Thompson) and his distinctive howl.
And yet, this was a concert of two halves. Because as elegantly as the band tried to intersperse its new songs (studio album “Head Carrier” was released last September) with favourites from their late '80s/early '90s heyday, the crowd’s reactions repeatedly demonstrated exactly what they’d come to hear.
They were well within their rights. The Pixies’ alt-rock masterpieces remain cornerstones of great record collections to this day. “Crackity Jones” and “Holiday Song” sped past at Roadrunner pace. “Dead” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” proved well-timed reminders that no band delivers the quiet/loud dynamic better. They’ve set a high bar for themselves. Which is why when faced by what might be ungraciously described as a bunch of fair-to-solid new pop songs written in the style of the Pixies, the Vancouver crowd politely saved their energy for something they could sing along to.
Even though the atmosphere inside a steadily warming Queen Elizabeth Theatre would ebb during the newer tracks, a classic was never too far away. “Bone Machine,” “Where Is My Mind” and a second, slowed down rendition of “Wave of Mutilation” brought the entire crowd to its feet, most of whom remained standing for a short but sweet two-song encore.
“All I Think About Now” provided new bass player Paz Lenchantin with a deserved moment in the spotlight, her buoyant exuberance throughout the show providing a welcome counterpoint to her three band mates’ stern middle-aged male intensity. It’s no easy job replacing the eternally loveable original bassist Kim Deal (whose own post-Pixies career with The Breeders and The Amps revealed a song writing gift sadly underemployed in the shadow of Black Francis) but Lenchantin’s warmth and musical ability has defined her position in the band.
“Debaser” was the final song of the night, its screeches and immense riffs still resonating with the influence it spread in the nearly 30 years since its creation.
With a cymbal crash and a wave, The Pixies were gone; 34 songs delivered in slightly less than two hours, all without a solitary word of greeting to the audience. Still weird. Still rocking. The Pixies can never overstay their welcome.