Concert Review: The Pixies at Express LIVE!
It was a chilly Sunday night in Columbus, but the Pixies provided all of the heat necessary at Express LIVE! to warm up the crowd. Coming out to a dimly lit stage, the band started the show with David Lovering providing a steady beat on the drums and Paz Lenchantin playing a driving bass line, before Joey Santiago began adding in faint strains of melody on guitar, and then with Black Francis bringing the slow buildup to a close by launching into “Gouge Away,” from 1989’s Doolittle. This was the perfect tone setting opening track for the venerable alt-rockers, showcasing Black Francis’ trademark scream as he sang.
The Pixies, who play each night without a prepared setlist, then launched into “River Euphrates,” from their debut 1988 album Surfer Rosa, before playing “Talent” from their newest album, 2016’s Head Carrier. The first, but certainly not the last, moment where everyone in the crowd was singing along with Francis and Lenchantin, came on their fourth song of the night, when the band played the classic “Monkey Gone to Heaven” off of Doolittle. Throughout the night, the Pixies played songs from up and down their entire discography, understandably highlighting their strong 2016 release Head Carrier.
But fans of the Pixies classic tracks could not be disappointed, as the band played 16 tracks from Doolittle and Surfa Rosa. The great thing about the Pixies is that Francis and company don’t waste time in between songs with idle chatter, they simply transition from one track to the next, allowing them to play more than 30 songs during their hour and 45 minute set.
Earlier in the day, during the Pixies’ performance in the CD102.5 Big Room, Francis detailed how the band manages its fluctuating setlist each night. Francis said that the band has around 50 songs that are prepped for performance at any given time, and that while the band is on stage, he uses a separate microphone setup with a feed into the band’s monitors to communicate what songs he wants to play. This process did lead to one of the funny moments of the night, when guitarist Joey Santiago apparently misheard Francis, and switched out guitars, causing the band to have to stop and restart “Havalina” from Bossanova, when Santiago realized that he needed the guitar he had just traded out.
Original members Francis, Santiago, and Lovering seemed like they were all still genuinely having a great time playing together, and Paz Lenchantin, who joined the band on bass guitar after Indie City was released in 2014, was great all night. While diehard original Pixies fans may always long for a reunion with original bassist/vocalist Kim Deal, Lenchantin was a fantastic addition to the band. Her vocals and bass playing were spot on, and she did an amazing job honoring and building on the legacy Deal left behind.
The last 10 songs of the Pixies’ were a flurry of hits and fan favorites, including “Vamos,” “The Holiday Song,” and “Nimrod’s Son” from the band’s 1987 EP, Come On Pilgrim, “Brick is Red” and “Where is My Mind?” from Surfa Rosa, and “Here Comes Your Man” and “Wave of Mutilation” from Doolittle. The Pixies closed with the classic "Debaser," giving everyone in the crowd one last chance to scream along with Black Francis. The band then took a moment to bask in the thanks and adulation of the crowd, waving, smiling, and taking a bow, before the fog machines kicked into high gear, nearly totally obscuring the band as they wrapped up the night with Lenchantin singing “Into the White.”
Nearly 30 years after the release of their debut recordings, and having influenced many bands that have come and gone, the Pixies’ are still a rock ‘n’ roll force to be reckoned with.
NYC based band, Public Access T.V. (pictured below), opened the show with an inspired half-hour set of rock. The band, consisting of John Eatherly (lead vocals, guitar), Xan Aird (lead guitar, vocals), Max Peebles (bass, vocals) and Pete Star (drums, vocals), has a great rock, post-punk, new wave type sound that feels fresh, especially with Eatherly’s vocals. Although both Aird and Peebles were wearing cowboys style hats, there was nothing country about them.
Having released their debut album, Never Enough, back in September, the band has had the opportunity to open for the Pixies on their current tour, and has previously supported the likes of The Strokes and Weezer. One of the stand-out tracks from their set was “End of an Era,” where Eatherly declares “They say the kids don’t like rock ’n’ roll any more.” With great classic alternative like the Pixies, and with promising new artists like Public Access T.V., hopefully we’re still far off from the end of the era of rock.