Review and photos – Pixies at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, Feb. 17 2014
– review by Ria Nevada/photos by Kirk Chantraine
Pixies devotees at the Orpheum on Monday night were treated to a whopping 34-song set from the pioneering avant-rock band. The quartet was lauded by a sold-out, standing room house, and the stomps and whistles didn’t die down until long after the indie legends took their final bows.
Their influence rings loud and clear in contemporary lo-fi, garage bands including their supporting group, Best Coast. The distorted guitars and wistful melodies from their 2012 album The Only Place and their latest EP Fade Away resonated with grungey nostalgia.
Singer Bethany Cosentino was the first to comment on how surreal it was to be opening for their heroes. Normally chatty and almost catty with the younger and more rambunctious fans she’s used to, it was strange to see Cosentino’s restrained side. She compared the opportunity to the uncomfortable experience of playing a recital at her old high school. But the jitters disappeared halfway through their set and they quickly won over their unfamiliar crowd with their contagious breakout hit, “Boyfriend”.
The Pixies formed in Boston in 1986 and put out some of the most influential and experimental records over the next seven years, including Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. After disbanding in 1993, frontman Black Francis, lead guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and bassist Kim Deal decided to reunite in 2004 for an international tour. By then, thanks to continuous name-dropping by a new generation of bands, their fanbase had grown to include younger fans that had never had the chance to see them previously.
Francis received some flack after admitting in a 2010 interview with The Quietus that the main motivation for their return was the paycheque rather than the art. Even if that was the case this time around, the cash incentive didn’t overshadow their expert musicianship and dedication to their diehard fans. They delved deep into their jarring but prodigious body of work – their songs as groundbreaking now as they were over 25 years ago.
Francis’ maniacal screams and vivid lyrics, particularly on “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Caribou”, still possess the power to shock and amaze. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Lovering’s sweet croons on “La La Love You” extended the crowd’s post-Valentine’s glow. Guitarist Santiago stood in the shadows with a subtle smile on his face for most of the show, but had everyone’s jaws dropping with his swirling guitar licks on “Hey” and the extended cacophonous solo on “Vamos”. At no point during their two-hour performance did the band give off the impression that they were simply running through the hits with golden shackles.
Perhaps it was the string of new material that they have been experimenting with – they are releasing five EPs over the next year – or the charismatic Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) completing their line-up (filling the shoes of Kim Deal and, briefly, The Muffs‘ Kim Shattuck), but the Pixies sounded absolutely refined and cohesive. Even their matching monochromatic black outfits echoed their solid and unified front. Francis even gave Lenchantin an encouraging nod before they launched into the riotous “Bone Machine”. If fans were feeling any residual bitterness about Deal’s departure, it wasn’t apparent as they showered her worthy replacement with the warmest applause as she sang the outro of new song “Bagboy”. The band put on an inspiring performance by any standards.
The Pixes at the Orpheum, Vancouver, Feb. 17 2014 setlist:
Wave of Mutilation
Head On (Jesus and Mary Chain cover)
Isla de Encanta
Brick is Red
Motorway to Roswell
Here Comes Your Man
La La Love You
Blue Eyed Hexe
I’ve Been Tired
What Goes Boom
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Planet of Sound
Greens and Blues
Where is my Mind?
More Pixies at the Orpheum photos: