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Posted - 04/13/2004 : 23:51:19
| Wed, Apr. 14, 2004
Pixies' 'warm-up' tour lukewarm
BY REGGIE ROYSTON
The Fine Line Music Lounge in downtown Minneapolis was the scene of one of the most talked about rock music reunions Tuesday night. Instead of resurrecting the youthful arena-rock ghosts of the 1970s, it was an icon of the graying of Generation X that was in the spotlight -- the Pixies, an indie rock band of the late '80s whose artistic daring and pop sensibility paved the way for '90s mainstream alternative rock acts like Nirvana (who heralded the band as one of their major influences).
For music fans in the Twin Cities, it was a moment of rare national fanfare. This would be the band's first public performance since 1992’s U2 “Zoo TV” tour and would be preceded by three days of private rehearsals at the downtown Minneapolis club.
The tickets sold out online within minutes, meaning a capacity crowd filled with savvy local music fans, music industry insiders and elite superfans who bought tickets on eBay and flew in from locales such as New York and Los Angeles.
The official word from the band’s camp was that this “warm-up” tour, hitting small cities such as Spokane, Wash., Boise, Idaho, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, is the lead up to the band’s official reunion gig -- a co-headlining spot at the exclusive Coachella Music Festival with Radiohead and Kraftwerk in May.
As far as warm-up shows go, the performance was just that -- warm.
Part of the mythos of the Pixies rested largely on the personality of their enigmatic lead singer and songwriter Frank Black, whose personality was famously acrimonious, cryptic, satirical and egomanicial -- traits which only served to make the band’s choppy mixture of surf-guitar, quirky pop and cantankerous punk believable and hard to categorize.
Dressed in a well-worn flannel and taking with a slightly amused smile, the bald and pudgy guitarist ripped through an opening set of twangy sing-scream classics “Bone Machine” and “Wave of Mutilation" mostly with eyes closed, remaining pensive, verging on bored throughout the set.
One wondered what indeed was going through Black’s head the entire performance. Lead guitarist, equally bald and diminutive Joey Santiago looked very pleased with the dancing crowd’s fanaticism while supplying the band’s signature surf tone. The much-loved Kim Deal (who sang lead for The Breeders after the band’s demise) smiled adorably from behind her bass, losing time often as she is famously known to do, but clearly lost in the moment, often exchanging gleeful nods with David Lovering, the drummer.
Through two sets and one encore, the band’s music lived up its laborious and ecstatic reputation, quiet, brooding and danceable for the slow parts of the “Tame” epic and thunderous for “Velouria.”
Black looked as if he were somewhere else.
As far as reunions go, Black’s curious disinterest and rougher elements the band’s performance left cause for pause. During Deal’s signature tune “Gigantic,” the bass player’s singing and time was clearly off, leaving Black clearly annoyed and leading to a catty exchange between the two afterward.
Those exchanges beg the question of whether the chemistry of the group, which broke up when differences between the two could not be ironed out, can be sustained with vigor to complete a year’s worth of touring.
That can only be answered when the band returns to the Twin Cities for a concert at Roy Wilkins this fall, for a show more accessible to the grassroots indie-rock audience which helped launch the band’s career.