Pixies a well-oiled machine

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It was easy to be a little cynical about Tuesday’s Pixies concert.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/04/2011 (4241 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was easy to be a little cynical about Tuesday’s Pixies concert.

After all, the Boston alt-rockers are on the seventh year of their reunion and the second year of their 20th anniversary tour celebrating the 1989 release of their second full-length, Doolittle, by playing the entire album in order.

But once the music started, all cynicism and doubts disappeared in an instant.

(From left) Guitarist Joey Santiago, lead singer Black Francis, drummer David Lovering, and bassist Kim Deal perform as the Pixies at the Centennial Concert Hall on Tuesday night in the first of two shows in Winnipeg.

When the quartet — singer-guitarist Frank Black/Black Francis (as he was known during the Pixies first run), bassist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering — last played Winnipeg in April of 2004, it was their second show since breaking up in 1993 and they were still working out some of the kinks; at the Centennial Concert Hall on Tuesday night in front of a devoted crowd of 1,369 they were a well-oiled machine who proved their status as one of the greatest alt-rock outfits of all time was well deserved.

After some B-sides from the time – Dance the Manta Ray, Weird at My School, Bailey’s Walk and Manta Ray – the opening bass line of Debaser signalled the beginning of what was to be thrilling set of one of the greatest indie-rock albums of all time.

The abrasive slash and burn of Debaser was followed by the loud-quiet-loud ride of Tame and the surfy Wave of Mutilation, which was reprised near the end of the night in its slower UK Surf version.

Doolittle is more than two decades old but still holds up to this day with its mixture of catchy pop (Here Comes Your Man, La Love You and There Goes My Gun) alongside bizarre concoctions (I Bleed, Dead and Monkey Gone to Heaven) and blasts of punky noise (Mr. Grieves and , Crackity Jones. With all the different flavours it still works together as a complete album as opposed to a collection of singles and is best devoured completely in one sitting.

The band members aren’t the most dynamic outfit to watch, but it hardly matters because with the Pixies it truly is about the music. Black stood front and centre alternating between singing and barking out lyrics like a man possessed, while Santiago stood to his right stoically concentrating while serving up complicated riffs and squeals of freaky noise.

But for fans who needed a bit of eye candy, there were five glowing orbs above the group and each song featured its own video ranging from old black and white footage to new specially shot graphics, along with a spinning record signaling where the band was on the album.

Deal served as the band’s spokesperson, thanking everyone for coming, but forgetting about their show here in 2004, a significant one since it was the second of their reunion (it should have been the first, but that’s another story).

“Have we played Winnipeg before? We have? I thought this was the first time I’ve been here. We did a lot of Canadian shows that time in ‘04 or ‘05. What the f-k are we doing back here?” she said jokingly.

The encore featured the only unpredictable part of the evening when the band visited material from some of their other albums. The set has differed nightly and ranged from four to six songs. On Tuesday the Pixies served up their version of Neil Young’s Winterlong, more surfy vibes with Velouria, and the oddball ballad Caribou. They finished the night with the ode to madness Where is My Mind and the love song Gigantic, featuring Deal on vocals.

Winnipeg’s Imaginary Cities opened the night with an impressive 40-minute set of indie-rock and pop with a soulful edge thanks to the vocals of Marti Sarbit whose voice ranges from playful and childlike to over-the-top powerful, sometimes within the same song.

Sarbit and multi-instrumentalist Rusty Matyas recorded the group’s debut, Temporary Resident, on their own, but live the group performs as a quintet, one that has gelled into a cohesive unit thanks to months of touring, including opening all the North American shows on the Pixies current jaunt.

“We’re pretty excited to play our hometown and pretty excited to open for the Pixies,” Sarbit said.

They should be, and the gig should earn them plenty of new fans at every stop, including tonight when they and the Pixies return to the same venue for a sold-out show (Tuesday was added Wednesday sold out instantly).

Imaginary Cities take the stage at 7:30 p.m. and the Pixies are on at 8:45 p.m. following an edited version of the 1929 Salvador Dali/Luis Bunuel film Un Chien Andalou, the inspiration for Debaser.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

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