So I Saw This Band Called The Pixies Last Night.....
...and they were rather good.
For anyone trekking to the remaining shows, if last night's gig is an indication of what to expect in terms of set times, the doors open at 6:30, but the openers don't hit the stage until 8:00. My party showed up at 7:00, and it was almost too early; no lines whatsoever and still an hour wait before Broken Social Scene came on.
And speaking of Broken Social Scene, they were nothing short of phenomenal in a live setting. I've owned a burned copy of You Forget It In People for awhile now, but I've seldom listened to it, mostly because I thought my ripped MP3s were of a lesser quality for some reason. But now having returned to it, and having listened to the Woman's copy, I just realize that the production on the album is relatively crappy in comparison to the live show. They never had less than 7 people onstage, and for a few songs, as many as 10. Part of the fun is attempting to figure exactly who is playing what, as there's usually 3 to 4 guitars playing at once. The effect is a huge, shoegazer-ish, wash of sound that can bowl over unsuspecting audience members. The hippest looking of their guitarists is usually allowed to play all of the lead lines, and said lead lines are often piggybacked with trombone and trumpet. What seemingly sets them apart from a British shoegazer act (other than the fact that they're from Canada) is that their tempos are generally far swifter, and the band members spend much more time jumping around as opposed to staring at their feet. But they were completely awesome, and I'd love to see what they could do with a larger recording budget for their next album. They could use a little work on their stage banter though; concluding every song with "this is a dream! we love New York!" is lame.
The Pixies hit the stage at 9:15, and at last night's gig, they opted for the setlist in which a bevy of slow acoustic numbers kicks off the show. This meant opening with "In Heaven," cleanly seguing into the acoustic format of "Wave of Mutilation," followed by "Where is My Mind." The relatively slower portion of the show (maybe about 7 songs) concluded with a completely nuts take on "Vamos" which found Joey Santiago treating his Les Paul like Thurston Moore. This was followed by Frank Black finally strapping on his electric, and David Lovering knocking out the opening beats to "Bone Machine." From there on out, it was ON. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little anxious to hear some ROCK during the quieter moments which opened the show, but it's easy to forgive when the band proceeds to play "Bone Machine," "I Bleed," "Crackity Jones," and "Monkey Gone to Heaven" in rapid succession. Wow. Read that again.
Maybe the best way I can describe the Pixies show is that they played practically everything I wanted to hear, and every other song was greeted with a 'wow, I forgot about this one, but now I remember how awesome it is.' How many bands do you know can fill 90 minutes without a single justification for using the restroom? Not that a bathroom break was remotely possible; I have never seen the Hammerstein Ballroom as crowded as it was last night. Even the portion around the bars/t-shirts was completely flooded with people.
Little has been said about the Pixies light show, and while it certainly wasn't as extravagant as that of say....Radiohead, it unquestionably enhanced the evening. Lots of smoke machines, orange and red lights made the stage look like the pits of hell during "I Bleed," and the light guy certainly knew how to turn the stage RED whenever Frank Black sang the chorus to "Tame." Best of all was during "No. 13 Baby," when the lights made the band look like ghostly silhouettes against a pink/blue backdrop during the fade out jam. With regard to the crowd, lots of variety, but mostly hipsters in their late 20's, early 30's standing still or jumping on their heels. We were stuck behind an older, bearded dude with a bandana on his head who used every song to do that interpretative dance thing with his hands, but he was not the norm.
Frank Black can still howl with the best of them, David Lovering looks like the happiest man in show business, and if Kim Deal smokes as many cigarettes onstage for each tourdate as she did last night, she'll be lucky if she makes it to the New Year. Gripes would include an utter lack of stage banter, and the fact that it seemed like the band was almost too well-olied at times. There was seldom more than a five second pause between songs, and while this certainly kept the momentum high, it sometimes made the show feel rushed. And while I knew going into the show that based off of their 2004 setlists there was no way I was going to hear "Dig For Fire," "Down To the Well," or "Alec Eiffel," it's still slightly annoying that neither Bossanova or Trompe Le Monde were as well represented as the other Pixies albums. Still, all minor complaints. This show completely met my expectations.