Pixies at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, 4/24/11

Categories: Last Night
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Photos by Steve Cohen
Pixies
April 24, 2011
Roy Wilkins Auditorium, St. Paul

The career arc of the Pixies has been fascinating, to say the least. The seminal band formed, recorded, a toured to modest acclaim and then broke up, only to see their legacy grow exponentially in the years following their demise. A successful reunion tour inevitably followed, but what fans don't see coming is that the band actually stayed together this time -- longer now, in fact, than their initial shaky run from 1986 to 1993. 

With nary a single new song written between them and no hope for a new Pixies album on the horizon, a cynic might look at the recent Pixies tours as an easy opportunity for a cash grab. I'll admit, this thought crossed my own mind toward the beginning of their set at the Roy Wilkins last night, as the band started their set sounding uncoolly over-polished, with cheesy spotlights shining on each member as they sang. But as they churned out a few B-sides and then launched into "Debaser" -- the first track off of Doolittle, which they were slated to play straight through -- their little quirks started to show and all of the cynical thoughts faded away. The Pixies are better now than they've ever been, and how could anyone complain about that?

As pieces of confetti from a Flaming Lips show -- or maybe Tiesto? -- fluttered down from the ceiling, the main floor was in full-on celebration mode as they reveled in the note-perfect renditions of some of the band's most well-known songs. In lieu of a more spontaneous set list, the band kept things interesting by flashing images across a large screen at the back of the stage; everything from creepy little puppets to the band member's own faces kept the the eye entertained while the ear was sated.

At the album's halfway point, Kim Deal (who was in charge of all the stage banter for the evening) joked that it was time to flip the record over, and a video of the Doolittle vinyl spinning on a turntable played in the background as they launched into "Monkey Gone to Heaven." 

Prior to "La La Love You," Deal paused to introduce the members of the band and endear herself to the near-capacity Twin Cities crowd. "I had a sister who lived in St. Paul for like nine years," she noted. "She loved it here. She lived on Grand."

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Photos by Steve Cohen
​Lead singer and chief songwriter Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black, who Deal introduced by his birth name, Charles Thompson) chose to focus all of his efforts on his playing and singing, but his workmanlike approach to performing paid off. Some of the most chilling moments of the show came when Francis let out his screeching banshee wails, with "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and "Hey" contrasting his vocal styles nicely and showcasing all that his pipes have to offer. 

By the end of the encore, though, it had become the Kim Deal show. Before the band left the stage for the first time, all four members paced the edge of the stage slowly and waved graciously at the roaring crowd, and it was clear that the audience wasn't going to let them get away with only their first two-song encore. After a long pause, the band returned for a second encore and worked through five more songs, including the Deal-heavy hits "Where is My Mind?" and "Gigantic," which included a cute call-and-response joke between Deal and her bandmates. "Bring it down!" she yelled, and the band dropped out to leave just her bassline and a light splash of cymbal chugging forward. "20 years, and we finally learned how to bring it down," she laughed.

Which was all tongue-in-cheek, of course -- the band's loud-quiet-loud dynamic has been hailed as groundbreaking, not to mention that it served as the title for their reunion tour documentary -- but it showed that the band has an ease about them that was never there before. And that newfound camaraderie helped them to execute a positively blistering show.

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Photos by Steve Cohen
Personal bias: I'd never seen the Pixies live and didn't get into their music until adulthood, so there was no nostalgia here for me. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect.
The crowd: Young pogoing kids in the front, older dudes in plaid shirts standing still in the back.
Overheard in the crowd: "Mooooooore! More!!!" -- The guy behind me prior to the second encore.
Random notebook dump: It's the Kim Deal show!

Set list: 
Dance the Manta Ray
Weird at My School
Bailey's Walk
Manta Ray
Debaser
Tame
Wave of Mutliation
I Bleed
Here Comes Your Man
Dead
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Mr. Grieves
Crackity Jones
La La Love You
No. 13 Baby
There Goes My Gun
Hey
Silver
Gouge Away

Encore #1
Wave of Mutilation (U.K. surf version)
Into the White

Encore #2
Broken Face
Vamos
U-Mass
Where is My Mind?
Gigantic



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10 comments
Mumra_
Mumra_

lovable band performing from an album that plays like a “best of” compilation. They are so good. And they are cute.

Erik Hess
Erik Hess

Seeing "Where is My Mind" and "Gigantic" back to back was worth the price of admission for me.

Some of the songs from Doolittle that I had liked, but not loved, totally exploded live though. "There Goes My Gun" took on a dimension that I didn't quite expect and completely bowled me over. The tongue in cheek humor of "La La Love You" totally showed in their facial expressions as they played - I don't think I'll ever hear that song the same again. "Into The White" was insanity and the visual treatment was incredible. I'm not sure if it was intentional but seeing the stage and the front part of the crowd blanketed by uneven fog with Kim Deal untouched by it while she sang was pretty damn awesome.

Who cares if they're not releasing any new material? They could play the same setlist all over again and I'm sure it'd be just as varied and interesting as the show they played last night. I'd pay $45 to see it again, at just about any venue.

Mac Wilson
Mac Wilson

"I'd never seen the Pixies live and didn't get into their music until adulthood, so there was no nostalgia here for me."

Well said. I approached the show with the same perspective. I was impressed with how sharp they sounded, having played together with relative infrequency over the last few decades.

Waggzor
Waggzor

Who was the band that opened for them... they were decent enough that I would like to grab their EP...

How ever I also was at the show and loved it!!! I much like you missed the Pixies by about 20 years, and with my love of all things rock/ punk/ metal/ and most of all grunge ... this show was amazing through and through.

However, the stagnant old people there were a drag, I even had some pre-menopausal lady in her (mid30's early 40's) complain as I vied for better floor/ concert position amongst the General Admission Floor... I told her old people should just by seats if they don't want to stand in the crowd!

PalookaVille
PalookaVille

by "vied for better floor/ concert position amongst the General Admission Floor", do you really mean "20 minutes into the set, you pushed your way in front of 50 people who had been standing in their spot since before the opening act so they could get a decent view because they actually give a shit and don't just bum rush the stage because they hear a song they recognize"? Because if that's the case then i'm glad that someone bitched at you.

Waggzor
Waggzor

Like people were even crammed in... I have been to shows where it was more compacted than a BM... plus they were was on the fringe we were moving up to a better vantage... I am sorry you are small...

Waggzor
Waggzor

Sorry Herb, Didnt mean to belittle your profession. So I apologize for that, how ever I have found several boards related to concert Etiquette and I appreared to be in the right despite your findings.

Waggzor
Waggzor

That's a job... Besides, I am sure you have never done anything like that in your life... either of you... It's a concert, Get over the fact that the world will move on, and you are old and soon to be decrepit... Sorry... I am more than versed in manners, setting tables, giving toasts and so on... It's a concert, where you and all the others had an opportunity to do the same, to get a better seat... thats why it's general admission... Imagine going to get a beer... would one except to get their spot back... NO! So tell me i was raised by wolves, I am an ass hole, I am a douche bag, but I enjoyed the a great concert as did everyone who attended.

P.S.I was one of the probably 70 people who got a better vantage point, and if you dislike the fact that a General Admission Ticket means just that... than I suggest getting assigned seats... Or get a DVD of the band, than you will have the best seat in the house, and be able to change your tampon when ever you need to...

Big Herb Dickerson
Big Herb Dickerson

sure wish you would've said something like that to me. this 44 y/o professional etiquette instructor would have provided you with a gasping-for-air overdue lesson.

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