Led by Black Francis, the Pixies’ tour stop at a sold-out 20 Monroe Live on Saturday night was an epic, rapid-fire affair that didn’t disappoint exuberant devotees. (Review, photo gallery)
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It took a long, long time for the Pixies to finally make their way to Grand Rapids, so it’s not surprising that the alt-rock heroes’ sold-out affair at 20 Monroe Live on Saturday night would generate the kind of pent-up enthusiasm from fans that instantly dials up the electricity level hanging in the air.
And any Pixies show that roars to a start with “Gouge Away” and “Wave of Mutilation,” and wraps up its encore with “Debaser,” is “Wayne’s World”-worthy excellent in my book – and in the books of some 2,600 other attendees.
But it’s also par for the course that this rock legend’s arrival would get upstaged a bit on the same night that two bitter in-state football rivals – the Wolverines and Spartans – would clash and the city’s much-ballyhooed ArtPrize competition was celebrating its final blast of 2017.
Not only that, but a late afternoon power outage snarled downtown traffic to make things even more challenging for everyone involved.
Heck, the Pixies have always cast a shadow that’s much bigger than the band itself, especially when it comes to the music on the Boston outfit’s quirky, dark and completely enthralling first two albums, “Surfer Rosa” and “Doolittle.”
The band’s limited studio output has generated modest sales at best (four albums spanning 1988-1991 and two spanning 2014-2016). Still, the Pixies unquestionably have left an indelible mark on rock ‘n’ roll — paving the way for groups with much bigger star power and way more success such as Nirvana, Radiohead, Modest Mouse and so many more.
AN EPIC SET WITH THE PACING OF A PUNK SHOW
Whether any or all of this has left a little chip on the shoulders of original members Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering is hard to say, but they play as if none of that matters, with a hefty boost from relatively new bassist Paz Lenchantin.
“I guess what inspires me is to be good,” Santiago told Local Spins in an interview prior to the Grand Rapids tour stop. “I don’t care what they (critics) say, as I long as I know myself it’s good.”
Good doesn’t begin to describe the epic display that the Pixies uncorked Saturday after a spellbinding opening set by Mitski. (There’s something beautifully detached about Mitski’s music – an artsy sort of power that’s part punk, part New Wave, part dream pop.)
The Pixies rolled through their lengthy 100-minute set like a freight train with the pacing of a punk show: launching one song launched right after another, with no stage banter, no unnecessary pauses, no superfluous “How’s everybody doing tonight” pronouncements.
As always, Black Francis commanded the stage, barking out vocals well-suited to a metal attack at times and crooning pop-powered oohs at others, propelling that whole “loudQuietloud” M.O. that this band trailblazed. Lovering’s spot-on, furious drumming and Santiago’s mind-bending guitar work – an inexplicable torrent of noise, feedback, droning notes and sheer beauty – painted a fetching Pixies landscape, with Lenchantin proving to be the perfect accomplice vocally and instrumentally for the band’s brilliant musical villainy.
The evening assault of nearly three dozen songs romped through the annals of Pixies music, with plenty of selections from the band’s latest album, “Head Carrier,” and culling heavily from 1989’s “Doolittle,” with crowd-pleasing takes on “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Here Comes Your Man” and “Mr. Grieves.”
At one point, amid the frenetic, musical maelstrom of “Um Chagga Lagga” from “Head Carrier,” Black Francis wailed, “I’ll just keep on walking.”
The Pixies have done just that – admirably weathering snubs and power outages along the way – and that’s just fine.
PHOTO GALLERY: Pixies, Mitski at 20 Monroe Live
Photos by Anthony Norkus
Photos by Anna Sink
Read the Local Spins interview with the Pixies’ Joey Santiago: The Pixies ‘gone to heaven’: Thirty years in, alt-rock heroes find ‘ultimate’ bliss on the road
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