Review by Ian Lewis
Pixies. Doolittle. Tour. Those three words are enough to stir up many emotions in Pixies fans. Nostalgia in those who were lucky enough to attend the first Doolittle shows in 1989. Excitement in the younger generation of Pixies fans, who somewhere along the way were drawn to the seminal alternative band’s music. A majority of the crowd were in their mid 20’s. However, it was refreshing to see enough of the first wave of Pixies fans that they were in fact noticed. Proving that no matter your age or family commitments some are still willing to rock out. Which is indeed what the crowd at the first of the Pixies two nights in Paris did.
Le Zenith was packed with everyone waiting in anticipation for the band to take stage. We were treated to a version of the 1920’s surrealist film Un Chien Andalou, by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, accompanied by a minimalist soundtrack with increasing tempo. Film, as a theme, would continue throughout the night. The stage was set in a very calculated manner. Moving white spheres connected by tubes hung above the stage. Each song was accompanied by a video that followed a theme in that song. Some in the black and white style of Un Chien Andalou, others quite bizarre, and even the more simple videos displaying song lyrics. Something lazier bands wouldn’t take the time to create and would substitute with an oscillating visualizer ripped off of iTunes.
When the Pixies took stage to a barrage of cheers and claps from the crowd, they warmed up with a few B-Sides. Starting with “Dancing the Manta Ray”, “Weird at my School”, “Bailey’s Walk”, and “Manta Ray.” This was sure to please anyone who listens to the deeper cuts of the Pixies catalogue. At first, no one really knew how the set-list would pan out. Would they play the entire album in track order? When “Manta Ray” was followed by Kim Deal’s instantly recognizable base notes that open “Debaser”, most of the audience’s feet left the ground. Some Parisians even responded by storming the crowd and thrashing their way from the back of the floor to the front of the stage with reckless abandon.
Following were “Tame”, with Black Francis showing that he can still produce his wild scream, and a very inspired “Wave of Mutilation”. Kim Deal teased the crowd about which song would be next by saying, “We are going to skip to the end of the album.” When “I Bleed” followed, pretty much everyone knew how the set list would continue, in the Doolittle album track order. Well, everyone except for one guy. When Kim continued to joke with us in English and French banter, asking if we knew what was next, the guy screamed “Hey” in response to this and also between the next few songs, before catching on.
A criticism of more recent Pixies tours was how awkward they looked together on stage, like they would rather be somewhere else with different people. This can have a very negative effect on the crowd and translate into them also not having fun. It appears that the band have really worked out their differences. Each member looked like they were having a blast on stage. When “Here Comes Your Man” came next it may have been one of the most memorable moments of the night. A fun song to begin with, the video played during it added to the good vibes. Each band member was filmed and displayed next to each other miming to the song, bobbing their heads, air drumming, laughing, and simply having fun.
Musically the Pixies were on point. Few people can hit vocal notes in the same fashion as twenty odd years earlier, but Francis and Deal came remarkably close during their vocals. The Pixies style isn’t perfectionist anyway. It wouldn’t really matter if they couldn’t, with Joey Santiago shredding his guitar the way he does the instrumental aspects stand out more at times. On “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, Santiago’s wailing guitar solo and Frances’ screaming verse ending with “…and god is seven” brought the audience to a frenzy, shouting along. A similar response was garnered from the obvious favorite “Hey”. It may have been the most anticipated word from Francis all night. With the screen behind displaying key words for the audience to shout along (like they needed it anyway`) and during the “we’re chained” refrain linking together chains, it created a great effect and proved to be a defining moment of the show, really bringing together the performers and audience.
Drummer David Lovering seemed to be in great spirits as well. He seemed like a superior technically adept child who just got a new kit on Christmas morning, bouncing up and down with a smile on his face. On “La La Love You” his deep sounding lead vocals while drumming were very precise, not an easy task doing both simultaneously. This also created another lovable moment when Francis turned and spoke directly to Santiago and Deal on the opening “I…Love…You” vocals.
Waving goodbye before the closer, “Gouge Away”, it seemed that would be it. They took their bows and received love from the audience with much grace. To have so many people still love and adore you after twenty turbulent years must be overwhelming. However, they came back to give more. Twice. The first encore consisted of the more toned down UK Surf version of “Wave of Mutilation”, they quietest song of the night. They played very loud in Le Zenith, not like that’s a bad thing. Following was the more obscure Kim Deal sung track “Into the White”, highlighting more of Santiago’s guitar, bringing him to his knees in the finale as a silhouette inside a thick fog of white smoke. The second encore began with Surfer Rosa’s “Bone Machine”, sandwiching “Nimrod’s Son” and “Caribou” between the last song of the night “Where is My Mind?” Another crowd favorite with its well known strumming from Francis and plucking from Santiago providing a fitting finale to end the night on a high note.
After 25 songs they weren’t expected to also play the entire Surfer Rosa album too. We would have stuck around for it though. A common complaint about seeing a live Pixies show is that they don’t really stretch out or rework their songs for a live audience. Some ran slightly longer than on record, but for the most part were played as on the album. It shouldn’t be expected from the Pixies. They aren’t known for “jamming” and maybe it would seem awkward for them to do so. They have always had a trademark straight forward, in your face style, with songs not following each other like a slow flurry of falling snow but more like bullets from an automatic weapon.
Intro Film (Un Chien Andalou)
Dancing The Manta Ray
Weird at My School
Wave of Mutilation
Here Comes Your Man
Monkey Gone to Heaven
La La Love You
There Goes My Gun
Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
Into the White
Where is My Mind?