The influential alt-rock band played one of its best albums straight through, but still messed around.
When you have an old album that stands up as well as the one the Pixies played from start to finish Sunday night at St. Paul's Roy Wilkins Auditorium, does anyone really need to hear a new record?
Seven years since playing their first reunion show at the Fine Line in Minneapolis, one of Generation X's most influential rock bands glossed over their lack of new material by taking a different approach (different for them, anyway): They played their revered, diabolical 1989 disc "Doolittle" straight through -- from its slicing opener to its gouging closer.
While the album itself is loaded with shock value, its dominance Sunday took away the usual element of surprise from the 90-minute concert. That was fine, though. Seeing the Pixies in the 2010s is like seeing the Ramones in the 1990s: The Boston-reared rockers have a formulated, groundbreaking sound that's all theirs, is about all they do, and is all fans want to hear. (Unlike the '90s Ramones, though, the Pixies are still all original.)
The band managed to keep things interesting. Instead of diving straight into the album, they kept the stage lights low and slyly waded through four "Doolittle"-era B-sides to kick off the show. They coyly kept the near-sellout crowd waiting, in other words, and it paid off with a visual and musical burst once the quartet finally got to the familiar opening bass line of "Debaser."
Also adding a fresh sheen to the old material, each of the "Doolittle" songs was accompanied by its own big-screen video.
The footage included everything from grotesque horror-flick clips during "Debaser" to a man hanging upside down from a noose in "Mr. Grieves." On the lighter side, the pop hit "Here Comes Your Man" was accompanied by scenes of each of the four band members cheerily smiling and lightly bobbing their head to the music.
Not even "Here Comes Your Man" was taken lightly on the musical front, though. In their heyday, the Pixies often sounded disjointed and looked disinterested on stage, but all four members seemed deeply invested Sunday. "Doolittle" is a fun record, so no surprise they appeared to be having a blast.
While frontman Black Francis (aka Frank Black, aka Charles Thompson) was in fine voice, bassist Kim Deal did most of the talking. She introduced drummer David Lovering to "all the ladies of St. Paul ... and even Minneapolis" before his cute crooner bit in "La La Love You." Deal also tried to get guitarist Joey Santiago to say good night with his instrument during "Gigantic," one of several pre-"Doolittle" songs saved for the second encore ("U-Mass" was the only entry off a later album).
Just the simple act of seeing them goof around with each other was proof the band might be in better shape now than it was 22 years ago.