The Pixies - reunited and sounding fine
Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass., Dec. 1, 2004
By Jeffrey B. Remz
LOWELL, MA - When a former highly regarded group gets together for reunion tour, eyebrows should be raised immediately. The immediate charge that can and perhaps should be made is band x is in it for the money.
But truth be told - The Pixies probably haven't lost a beat over time.
The reunion of lead singer Charles "Blackie" Francis, bassist Kim Deal, lead guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering has been highly successful. They sold our four nights in Chicago at a venue holding about 6,000, for example.
The Pixies, who blazed the trail for such acts as Nirvana with a mix of a punky sound with emphasis on solid instrumentation, are not touring behind any new material.
But they did more than hold their own on the 27 or so songs they played during their 100-minute show.
The Pixies' sound often is mined in forceful vocals from Francis amidst a sharp musical attack that is long on playing and not usually all that melodic.
But they started off with four straight softer, pop oriented songs that would not have required earplugs, including their hit "Here Comes Your Man." And this wasn't a mere replication of what was available on disc. "Here Comes Your Man," for example, was a bit staccato sounding.
Eventually, of course, The Pixies let it rip musically with "U-Mass" a highlight. Francis was in top form vocally spitting out the lyrics, which actually could be heard. The sound mix made sure of that throughout whether Francis was signing or Deal, who took an occasional turn at the mic.
The lighting was exceptional. The effects were not over the top, but the melding of background colors helped create a good mood for the music.
Francis is not the warmest of performers, which, if he were, would have helped elevate the music higher. Deal handled the talking chores, but by night's end, the quartet clearly was pleased with evening.
It will be interesting to see whether this is a one-off tour or The Pixies, who reportedly were planning to film the second night for a DVD, really re-emerge as the potent force they once were.
The Pixies were not a huge commercial success last time out, but one suspects that given the surprisingly young crowd, this is band who's future may not necessarily lie in the past.
In a fine choice for an opener, another Boston band, Mission of Burma, preceded The Pixies with a good 45-minute set. Roger Miller, wearing headphones to protect his ears, still anchors the music with great guitar playing, going for atmospherics and muscle. Bassist Clint Conley handled more of the vocals and maintained a punky feel to the music.
Burma, which has put out new music since their farewell 20 years or so ago, did not quite have as much going on musically as The Pixies, but still can rock with the best of them.