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The Pixies Are Still the Real Deal

January 21st, 2014

Pixies – the Capitol Theatre – January 19, 2014

(Photo: Charles Steinberg)

With interruptions and turbulence a regularity throughout the Pixies’ nearly 30-year history, the group has reunited to tour in recent years, reinforcing their influence and affirming their legacy. And on Sunday night at the Capitol Theatre, they put on a retrospective show that ran the gamut of their visceral and bizarrely seductive collection of punky, surf-rock hits. Not much has changed in their approach to playing music since their mid-’80s beginnings. The raw scraped-knee energy is still intact, and so are frontman Black Francis’s agonized vocals, which spar with and then soften to linger over Joey Santiago’s shrill guitar textures. Drummer David Lovering still reliably supplies the amplification, together with new bass player Paz Lenchantin, who slid in seamlessly.

Of course the no-nonsense attitude is still central. The Pixies eschew aura and flair. Dressed in black and lit from behind, they punched out songs with restrained angst, letting the weight of their music take center stage. Toeing the line between atonal cacophony and loose, twangy melodies, the comprehensive set included all of the songs that have defined the Pixies. Classics like “Bone Machine” and “Wave of Mutilation” got the crowd involved early, and after mixing in a couple of new songs, the band geared up for the heart of the show. “Carribou” elicited bellows from the crowd singing along in fervor, which continued into the chorus-driven “Here Comes Your Man.” During “Vamos,” Santiago indulged in a full-on guitar monologue, punctuating and interjecting the steady, up-tempo drum rhythm with shredding, discordant flourishes.

Attention and anticipation built with each song, and in a stroke of calculated brilliance, the performance entered the final act with the epic “Where Is My Mind” and concluded with “Gouge Away,” making a sudden stylistic transition into the scintillating “Debaser.” Throughout their tight professional delivery, there remained a rough rehearsal element that has long marked the Pixies’ style and has always appealed to a large portion of their fan base. But most of all, they proved to be the genuine article. In the current alternative-rock climate of new bands coming and going, searching for identity, the Pixies are a true example to follow. They stepped up and laid it down, showing how it’s done: no fuss, no introduction needed, confident of the path they’ve paved. —Charles Steinberg