"Are we gonna ditch it?" "Yeah?" "Yeah." They then proceeded to walk off the stage.
The Pixies hit the Big Easy stage a second time to an even more wild response than their initial entrance. After abandoning "Subbacultcha" one verse in, they exited briefly, and re-emerged laughing and smiling to a sold out crowd who cheered and applauded well into the second start of the song. And I was going crazy myself: I was seeing a band I was sure I would never see. I was at a place I was sure I'd never visit. But it's all fiction now; the reality is I'm in Spokane, Washington, watching a band that I really admire, and love.
I'm not a critic. I'm not a reviewer. I'm most definitely not a journalist; I don't report news, or give predictions, or judge people or things. I write about stuff I like. I write about music, I write about my likes and dislikes, I write about my opinion, that's all. There's only a letter at the end of these things because there has to be: we're asked to give our opinion in the form of a rating. I don't like doing it, but to give you a sense of opinion in a way, I guess it gets a point across somehow. So this isn't a show "review," "critique," or anything like that. It's just an account of a show that I wish everyone could see, because my initial article would've just been "So awesome," over and over again for three and three-quarters pages. So I'm going to try and write what I saw, what I heard, and how I felt.
If a concert started the way it did for any other band, I think the show would've fizzled and stunk up the joint. But the Pixies entered the stage after Seattle's Alien Crime Syndicate to a wave of joy: people were seeing one of their favorite bands finally, and I bet most for the first time. They played with ease, yet a sense that they were still not totally relaxed with playing live. With each small, not-even-noticeable little flub or forgotten part, there was no glaring look or comment. Just a goofy "oops, I screwed up a little" funny-face, or a laugh and a nod. They played through six songs with enthusiasm, emoting honest and genuine playing. Frank Black screamed better, Joey soloed finer, David drummed stronger, Kim played cooler -- they had that exuberance, that sense of feeding from the audience's excited anticipation. Yet, once they started playing the seventh song, "Monkey Gone to Heaven," a switch clicked and they just dove into playing the songs the best they could: and they blew every one away.
Kim said, "This only our second show in the States," and the placed went ape. They wanted to have fun; they wanted to play an awesome show. Then after "Broken Face," they ripped apart "Bone Machine," "Levitate Me," and "No. 13 Baby" with precision - just so good, so tight. "Velouria" made me excited: I love that song. But then again, I wasn't looking to hear anything in particular; I just wanted to see them play.
The Pixies played just like they never were gone: enjoying themselves, giving each other little smirks, giving little comments to each other and laughing. It was just so great to see them up there being a band, being part of a group and playing together so well. More than just well, like the band everyone thinks of them as - the best band.
I mean, when you have songs like "Hey," "Debaser," and "Gigantic," and you can play them all IN A ROW, all you can do is hold on to the barrier so the rock doesn't blow you over. And this was definitely the best part of the show: Frank Black looking over at Kim and sticking his tongue out of the side of his mouth as she had been doing periodically during the show as she played. It was a cute and endearing thing that showed they actually were enjoying themselves up there.
After "Tame" and "Gouge Away," a solid "Where Is My Mind?" was played to a helpful, singing Big Easy. The following song also showcased what I think is a better part of the show: for "Here Comes Your Man," despite missed cues and leaving out the cool little surf solo after the first verse, the performance was just amazing. Seeing them shrug and laugh and smile while pounding out these amazing songs only added to the show itself.
What I think is probably the best set ending/encore starting of the whole tour, they played the UK Surf version of "Wave of Mutilation," and as they left the stage, the screaming, pleading crowd did not let up one decibel until the band returned. David Lovering enticed the crowd with a quick little show of his card handling expertise (he's also a magician besides being a drummer) by fanning out a deck and flinging a few cards into the crowd. It impressed Kim so much, she asked for one herself, and put it in her pocket as she walked off the stage.
Obviously letting time pass a little due to the fact that immediately following the show the Big Easy would be transformed into "Club Fusion" for Saturday night, the Pixies took their time returning, but were grateful for the huge cacophony greeting them back. They went right back into "Wave," but the faster album version, and proceeded to blow away the crowd. "Crackity Jones," "Isla de Encanta," and "Something Against You" continued the set, and the jamming and on-stage fun that ensued was even more than before. Joey Santiago made every possible sound come out of his Les Paul; David Lovering even threw him a drumstick to use for part of his soloing. Wild, fun, out of control, and it was just so damn good.
As the twangy, slow first chords of "Caribou" blasted out into the audience, elation and joy flooded the club; it was just a momentous way to end the perfect concert. They put their instruments down, headed to the front and waved to everyone, thanking and smiling the whole time. You could see the enjoyment, the gratitude, the sense of "we're ALL having fun here" in their gestures and words. The lights came up, people were herded out, and I looked around as the Big Easy morphed into Club Fusion. I didn't mind that it was quarter after ten. I didn't mind that this song or that song wasn't played. I just witnessed a great, great show. Never mind it was the Pixies, they were better than the Pixies, if you could believe it. The songs live are better than the studio versions, and the power they have comes across ten-fold. This is what really good music is. There's nothing I could say, really, that hasn't been said already by other journalists. Like I said, I don't want "review" or "critique;" I'm not going to talk about this like it's the Second Coming, or the "blast of fresh air the music industry needs," because some kids who drove or flew X number of miles to see this have nothing to do with trends or business or popularity. We finally got to see the band our older brothers and sisters liked, the band that's our favorite band's fave, the band that we could only dream about seeing. Whatever the reason is -- and I hope they continue to handle themselves the way they have so far with avoiding the three ring circus that is the music press -- that reason should be for them only. Because now we can experience it; kids can see why they like the music. I'm glad I got to see them, and all these people got to see them. This tour has been done the way it should've been, and I'm glad everyone who was able to go enjoyed it so much. The Pixies are so awesome.
Tom Fraher is a Staff Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.