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dnbarg
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Posted - 04/15/2004 :  07:09:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Pixies produce some punk history


Thu Apr 15 2004

By Bartley Kives



NOBODY remembers the name of the second guy to climb Mount Everest, but I'm sure he had a hell of a time. Such is the fate of Winnipeg, the second city to witness a reunion by the Pixies, the beloved Boston band that went back on the road this week after almost 12 years in self-imposed exile.
On Tuesday, the pioneering alternative-rock band reunited in front of 350 people crammed inside a tiny Minneapolis club. Last night, the stakes got higher: All 1,600 seats at the Burton Cummings Theatre, which sold out in less than four minutes back in February, were packed with people expecting nothing less than the second coming of a legendary group that wasn't fully appreciated during its original existence, at least in North America.

No concert could possibly live up to such high expectations, except maybe if Elvis came back from the dead to jam with Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. But for long-suffering Pixies fans -- whose numbers have multiplied like zebra mussels since the band's official break-up on New Year's Day, 1993 -- a show featuring singer-guitarist Black Francis, bassist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering comes a close second.

After a half-hour opening set by Winnipeg math-rock quartet Ham, the Pixies took the stage promptly at 9 p.m. and launched into their wispy cover of Neil Young's Winterlong.

A nod to Winnipeg rock history? Who knows. It was exciting enough to see the hulk of hyperactive humanity known as Black Francis -- or Frank Black, as he's come to be known since 1993 -- sing harmonies with Deal, whose voice remains as coyly kittenish as ever.

Truth be told, the Pixies were never renowned as an accomplished live act during their original run. But last night, they were an extremely efficient, dynamic-plundering machine throughout a jackhammer-paced 75-minute set that boasted 24 songs, two encores and extremely little B.S. "Have we ever played Winnipeg before?" asked Deal, surveying a crowd that quickly answered with a resounding "Noooooo!"

Locked to her bass, Deal looked restrained until the encore performances of Gigantic and Into The White, her finest opportunities to shine on lead vocals.

Guitarist Santiago was concentrating even harder, ensuring his chiming surf guitar locked into Black's chugging rhythms in stunners like Vamos, Cactus, Gouge Away and the utterly brilliant Debaser, arguably the finest moment of a very fine night.

It was Black and Lovering who really let loose, the frontman screaming away like a linebacker-playing banshee on Tame and the drummer by speeding up the rhythm to a finger-bleeding tempo during the final few songs of the regular set.

Predictably, most of the material was culled from the Pixies' first three, most critically celebrated albums, Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, with barely a nod to Bossanova and Trompe le Monde. That went over just fine with the sold-out crowd, who were grinning like kids on Christmas morning during Nimrod's Son, Holiday Song and Bone Machine.

Two other moments are going to rank among the finest ever at the Burton Cummings Theatre: the Pixies' slow, mellow surf-guitar version of Wave Of Mutilation, played as a medley with the Eraserhead-soundtrack chestnut In Heaven; and the encore version of Where Is My Mind, which was just used three days ago to jump-start the programming of a wayward NASA Mars rover. A cynic might say last night's concert was nothing more than a nostalgia revue for the post-punk college-rock crowd. That charge might be correct, but seeing one of the most influential bands in rock history reunite to display their bipolar, thrash-pop genius still ranks as an evening to remember for an eternity.

That being said, Frank Black didn't appear to be sentimental at all about Big Reunion Show No. 2.

"Thanks for coming to our show. We're the Pixies," he said before the final encore, La La Love You. "We'll see you next time."


bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca
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