Reunion summons the spirit of peak-era Pixies
The Pixies’ reunion rumbles on.
The Boston-spawned group dissolved in the early 1990s just a hair too soon to fully benefit from the rising alternative-rock wave it did much to inspire. But it started playing well-received reunion shows in 2004 and has continued, on-and-off, since.
Sadly, founding bassist Kim Deal finally defected before a string of EPs in 2013 announced the group’s refusal to be a mere nostalgia project. But the band entered its three sold-out hometown shows this weekend with some extra momentum: its album last fall was the first proper, new Pixies LP in 25 years.
Pixies sounded fully in command at the House of Blues on Friday, even if not necessarily urgent. Some new songs were sprinkled in, but this was an ecstatic experience for fans with a taste for peak-era Pixies; it featured about half of the songs from 1989 favorite “Doolittle.” Friday’s show was followed by another there the next night, with a visit to Paradise Rock Club set for Sunday.
The group prepares 70 songs for a tour and picks selections on the fly. It felt on Friday like Pixies could keep pulling arrows from the quiver all night, unloading two- to four-minute songs with a steady pace throughout a 105-minute show.
A delectable opening trio of “Gouge Away,” “River Euphrates,” and “Cactus” set a patient tone before the group used a new tune, “Classic Masher,” to kick up the momentum. Things remained at a similar pitch more or less through the encore.
Frontman Black Francis, lead guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering, and new bassist Paz Lenchantin showed their easy familiarity with the band’s catalog, sounding tight but deliberately unpolished. They did little to augment the original studio cuts aside from pouring on some extra volume and intensity. The hits, such as they are, were integrated casually, with selections like “Here Comes Your Man” and “Where Is My Mind?” slipped in amid the flow.
A long mid-show stretch saw Francis move to acoustic guitar, leaving more room for Santiago’s squeals of controlled noise. Lenchantin picked up Deal’s vocal parts, but her bass’s lack of presence in the live mix reminded of her predecessor’s importance to the band’s sound. Pixies’ famously spikey dynamics were also smoothed out, with everything just sounding pretty revved up.
The crowd’s overjoyed response to “U-Mass” underlined Pixies’ reception as conquering heroes. “It’s educational!” Francis shouted repeatedly, near the end of a master class in indie rock taste-making.
At the House of Blues, May 19