The greatest band of the ’80s and ’90s is back again, this time to rep its crossover knockout Doolittle with a full-album tour, including B-sides. This monkey just went to heaven for Wired.
fter celebrating the 20th anniversary of its pop-punk classic Doolittle with thankful fandom across the pond, the legendary Pixies has returned to America to share its noisy love of surreal sonics and eye-candy visuals. That deafening blast you hear is thousands of Pixies monkeys gone to heaven.
Not that the quartet is being met only with diehards. After fracturing in the early ’90s upon the release of blistering full-lengths like Doolittle, Surfer Rosa and more, the Pixies — guitarist and shrieker Black Francis, bassist and vocalist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering — are more popular than ever. And judging by the joyous crowd that sold out Wednesday night’s rowdy set at the Hollywood Palladium, the first stop on the final leg of the Pixies’ Doolittle tour wrapping December 1, diehards and new adopters alike have spent time since the band’s 2004 reunion memorizing both its brilliant songs and esoteric B-sides.
Doolittle was always the artiest of the quartet’s releases, from the biblical estrangement of its lyricism to the dark and suggestive sleeve art from graphic designer Vaughan Oliver and photographer Simon Larbalestier, exhaustively collected in the Pixies’ recently released mega-box Minotaur. That spirit was celebrated before the concert with a screening of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s infamous 1928 surrealist short Un Chien Andalou (mashed at right to the Pixies’ “Debaser”). The film was met with cheers that escalated into howls once its ending bled into the groovy boogie of the B-side “Dancing the Manta Ray.”
By the time the Pixies had galloped through rarely performed B-sides like the sinister “Bailey’s Walk” and the spastic “Weird at My School,” the crowd was ready for the A-list.
Francis and crew didn’t disappoint, quickly blazing through Doolittle‘s abrasive opener “Debaser,” whose Andalou-inspired surrealist lyrics about “slicing up eyeballs” matched perfectly with the banned silent-film clips of the 1920s compilation Forbidden Images, which was projected on a massive screen behind them. The synesthetic merge brought a measure of high-end live production the band never received in its earlier, less appreciated life. Spearheaded by the Pixies’ trusty lighting designer Myles Mangino and Paul Normandale, and complemented by 11 new films from Judy Jacob, Tom Winkler, Brent Felix and Melinda Tupling, the viz added eye-candy dimension to Doolittle‘s deranged sonics.
The hybrid hits kept on coming. The screen bled red to the Pixies’ jagged dirge “I Bleed” (pictured above). During the twisted love song “Hey,” key phrases came to life in Tom Winkler’s hand-drawn animations. A rousing rendition of “Monkey Gone to Heaven” mashed Oliver and Larbalestier’s photography into the song’s performance, drawing hoots and screams from an ignited audience shouting “God is 7!” at the top of its lungs.
Things turned stranger during the split-screen video accompanying the band’s hit single “Here Comes Your Man,” where four digital Pixies bobbed happily behind their real-time counterparts on the stage (pictured at top). The goofy reel was an odd backdrop for a song the Pixies once seriously disliked, and hardly ever played live back when they were tearing into each other during the late ’80s. But the cognitive dissonance did nothing to erase the show’s momentum.
In fact, by the time the band landed on Doolittle‘s galvanized closer “Gouge Away,” the audience’s love had amplified to the breaking point. Its unrelenting applause and shouts brought the Pixies out for two encores, to play remaining Doolittle-era B-sides like the hypnotic “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)” and epic “Into the White,” as well as Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa winners like “Isla de Encanta” and “Gigantic.”
When it was over, the Pixies gathered into a group at the front of the stage, while its digital doppelgangers did the same on the massive video screen. The humorous doubling injected a hefty amount of camaraderie into a band once better known for its members’ seething dislike of each other than for its towering musical influence.
But time, and a much-deserved payday, heals all wounds. Throughout this thoroughly rewarding Doolittle tour, Francis and Deal may stand on opposite sides of the stage from each other. But they’re wise enough to know a goldmine of good music and goodwill when they’re sitting on one. And judging from the hysteria of the Pixies’ Hollywood stand, so does its ecstatic audience.
This article appeared at Wired