Pittsburgh – Already well into their 2017 North American tour, the Pixies rocked the Stage AE Stadium Oct. 4 in Pittsburgh, Pa. A band who is cited as an influence on some of the well-known giants of rock, such as Nirvana, Radiohead, Foo-Fighters and Interpol (who themselves are an inspiration for the Killers), the Pixies certainly lived up to their reputation in a loud, thrashing spectacle that I had the pleasure of viewing front row.
Shifting smoothly into first gear following a brilliant performance from the opener, a local Brooklyn band, Sunflower Bean (I would recommend them), the first heavy base notes of “Gouge Away” cuts through the silence and artificial fog, driving an audience of at least 1,200 people to a wailing frenzy. Low and heavy, bassist Paz Lenchantin holds the groove, usually played by founding member and former bassist Kim Deal who stepped out of the band in June 2013. But even in Deal’s absence, the sea of fans bobbing their heads was enough of an approval to get lead singer and guitarist Black Francis to fire up his pipes into a roaring frenzy at the chorus.
And as he screamed, the audience screamed back.
Even with an audience that seemed on the younger side compared to the age of the band members, ranging from ages eighteen to thirty, fans could be heard shredding their vocal chords to some of the band’s finest, and oldest works.
The set material was very well chosen, selecting many of their greatest hits along with some of their newer material and a few hidden jewels from the band’s earlier works. The first half of the set and the latter half brought out the greatest hits, “Wave of Mutilation,” “Caribou,” “Hey,” with some serious fan favorites shaking the walls of the area, (“Here Comes Your Man,” “UMass,” “Where is My Mind?”). While songs in the middle of the set, “I’ve been tired,” “Something against you,” and “Crackity Jones,” produced cheers from long standing fans and super-fans. A few of their newer hits had lukewarm response from the audience, but still deserved applause.
On a bit of a weird note, throughout the entirety of the concert, singer Black Francis did not utter a single word to the audience. No greeting, no “this next one is called…” Nothing. It seemed a bit out of place considering how much he was really into the music. You could especially see the feeling in his face, particularly during Joey Santiago’s solo during “Vamos”, which was a wonderful cacophony of reverb, slides and feedback. During the solo, Black closed his eyes and hammered out the supporting chords on an acoustic bobbing his head and tapping his foot to the rhythm. It just seemed a bit odd that after receiving such a warm welcome from the crowd on every song, he still did not say anything. Especially since after the band’s last song, a slowed down edition of “Wave of Mutilation,” the band came back on to perform an encore, with Lenchantin boldly singing Kim Deal’s vocals of “Into the White.”
But regardless of the slightly awkward stage presence, this is by far one of the strongest performances the new reincarnation of the Pixies has ever given. The band fed off of the energy of the audience and the audience did the same. Even if the age difference between the rockers and some of the fans spans almost thirty-five years, the connection between the two seems as strong as ever.