While the saga of bands who dissolved shortly after their heyday only to resurrect themselves a couple of decades later has played out in a variety of ways, Pixies was one of the first of the big alt.rock bands of the ’90s to give it another go. Now deep into the second phase of their reunion (I guess third, if you count the ‘blink and you’d miss it’ Kim Shattuck-era in the wake of Kim Deal’s departure), the band is hitting a new stride.
As a legacy act, it’s impossible to ignore your legacy, and Pixies have celebrated their previous works in due fashion. The 2009 tour focusing on Doolittle was one such example, and they’ve announced a small handful of shows (Europe only at the moment) to showcase their last two OG records. In the meantime, the glaring lack of new material was pretty apparent, and the band had more than a whiff of just coasting on past glories. There’s nothing wrong with that and a lot of bands have followed that path, their creative juices long since desiccated, and the three EPs that would be collected and released as “Indie Cindy” didn’t really inspire confidence that Frank Black and company were burnishing the band’s legacy.
That changed with last year’s release of Doggerel, a solid record that draws from the strength of their past while not being a carbon copy tracing of it. Playing six songs from it shows their confidence in the material, and to my ears two of the best songs were not even played (“Vault of Heaven” and “Dregs Of The Wine.”). Paz Lenchantin had the unenviable task of stepping in to cover Kim Deal’s bass and vocal duties, and she’s done a great job in a tough situation; some of the songs just wouldn’t sound the same without those arcing background vocals.
The quiet/LOUD/quiet dynamic is still the band’s trump card, and “Caribou” played early on in the set under a green-lit wash was a perfect example. Full on fury is also in their repertoire; “Tame” and “Dead” from Doolittle pushed Black’s vocal cords pretty hard during the screaming parts. While Pixies would never be mistaken for any kind of get down and party band, the members looked visibly happy to be playing a sold-out show in a big room (MGM’s capacity is 5,000) in their adopted hometown. While two versions of “Wave of Mutilation” might have been overkill, ending the night with a cover of Neil Young’s bittersweet “Winterlong” was a perfect capper; the absence of arguably their two biggest songs (“Monkey’s Gone To Heaven” or “Gigantic”) was not a problem for me in the slightest.
Franz Ferdinand was the second of a stacked bill, the veteran Scots hitting the stage with a blaze of sharply-manicured guitar rock with non-optional dance moves thrown in. “Jacqueline” was the perfect song to get the crowd into it from the get-go. Alex Kapranos seems unaffected by the aging process, and his playing was punctuated with the occasional scissor kick as he as launched himself from the stage. Fun, energetic performance that drew heavily from their early material.
Bully (aka Alicia Bognanno) took on opening duties as fans shuffled into the venue. Four records into a ten year career, this year’s Lucky For You has garnered positive reviews. Her hoarse, world-weary vocals lend an air of somberness but also defiance to the songs, wrapped up in a Garbage/Pumpkins sheen of ’90s alt-rock.