Pixies keep it moving forward

Pixies at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 12/4/17

Pixies @ PNE
Photo by Ryan Johnson

I’ve been fortunate to see Pixies in their original incarnation pre-blow up, as well as in the two post millennium versions. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing them in some pretty epic venues including Coachella, (followed by Radiohead was certainly a highlight), Brixton Academy in London and earlier this year at the Horden Pavillion in Sydney, Australia. But seeing them in our gem of a civic theatre was just as special as those nights. Pixies are a complicated story. They were under appreciated indy legends, yet the likes of Thom Yorke and Kurt Cobain have claimed Pixies as having a significant influence on their sounds.

As Black Francis belted some iconically harsh lyrics (“The sound that the mother makes when the baby breaks,” from Doolitle’s “Hey,” and “if man is five, the the devil is six and if the devil is six then god is seven,” from Monkey’s Gone to Heaven.”) it was easy to remember why his music is hailed as being so influential. They are now more than a dozen years into their ‘reunion’ and are truly getting their due. They circle the globe in style and play large rooms to sold out audiences. Would they still be doing this, if their critical acclaim in the late 80’s and early 90’s had translated into the record sales revenue that it ought to have? One will never know, and a cynic would claim an emphatic NO. However, on evidence of last night’s performance, they are growing as a band and not resting on old hits alone.

Pixies @ PNE
Photo by Ryan Johnson

Highlights of the night included new tracks “Silver Snail,” “Head Carrier,” “Might as Well Be Gone,” “Classic Masher,” “Bel Esprit” and the show closer, “All I think About Now,” with haunting lead vocals by bassist/vocalist and Kim Deal replacement Paz Lenchantin.

Pixies are a well-oiled machine now, complete with an over the top-back light heavy stage rig. They peppered the aforementioned new cuts with a Doolittle heavy set including favourites Wave of Mutilation in both original and UK surf versions, Crackity Jones, Tame and encore Debaser. Fans were pleased to hear Charles Thompson break out rarities Motorway to Roswell (from Trompe Le Monde), complete with an extended Joey Santiago guitar/synth treatment as well as the desert anthem “Havalina.” Other Bossanova surprises included Ana and Velouria. Francis created quite the catalogue in a very short time span.

True fans have to be wondering if and when his Frank Black tunes will be revisited, as this work exceeds (in quantity and some would argue in quality) his Pixies output. Considering the wealth at their disposal, Pixies’ set list did not disappoint, as the crowd was beaming as it sang along to “Where is My Mind.” If fans were hoping for some friendly banter, they would be disappointed. Francis does not partake in the standard cliched ‘Hello Vancouver’ greetings, nor does he even introduce his band-mates. What he does do however, is offer a rich set that comes in at just under 30 tracks, far more than one tends to hear at most gigs these days.

Pixies @ PNE
Photo by Ryan Johnson

The crowd contained young and old – with parents passing along the love to their kids, some of whom clearly got it, others who may have been dragged along reluctantly. Whatever one feels about this noisy, but gorgeous music, one must acknowledge its place in shaping sounds of the past two decades and try and see them while they are still around. On evidence of last night, I have a feeling there might just be another chance.