Pixies with Jay Reatard
Citi Performing Arts Center
Friday, Nov. 27, 2009
Some bands dabble in the sister field of art with enough vigor to earn the "art rock" tag, but even though I've never seen the paintings of Kim Deal nor the sculptures of Black Francis (and I'm not sure they exist), few bands fuse the twin worlds of audio and visual quite as tightly as the Pixies do. Much of this has to do with the serendipitous pairing of the visually stunning designs of 23 Envelope, the in-house graphics arm of 4AD records, to the sonic palette provided by the Pixies. However, Frank Black and the rest of the band tipped their hand as to their knowledge of the esoteric via the "slicing up eyeballs" phrase in "Debaser," and thus the first of two sold-out shows in their adopted hometown of Boston began with footage of the infamous Un Chien Andalou film from Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. I'm not sure how many teenagers who got turned onto the band via second-generation readings of Kurt Cobain's incessant raves were clued into the connection.
Famously resurrected in 2004, the Pixies have been playing much larger venues now than they did back in their heyday of the early '90s, and though they have been accused of going for the cash grab (and $500 copies of the ultra-lavish Minotaur box set doesn't exactly repel the "gouge away" chants), I think one would be hard-pressed to find any of the 3,600 people crammed into the ornate theater who thought they were getting a bad deal out of the evening.
Of course, playing their most-loved record, the sophomore effort, Doolittle, certainly helped improve crowd morale. Once the film ended, the show started out with some of the B-sides from the two singles issued off the record ("Here Comes Your Man" and "Monkey Gone To Heaven") and got straight into the main course with "Debaser" thundering throughout the cavernous theater.
The band is well known for its dynamics, and this applies to more than just the sonic levels throughout the songs. They move easily from the casually sweet surf guitar line of "Here Comes Your Man" to the veins-popping-in-the-forehead screaming rage of "Tame." Black still could summon the demons quite easily, as witnessed in the strobe-laden detuned churn of "Dead" or the frenetic off-the-rails chaos of "Crackity Jones." The sweeter side of the vocals from Deal would lend some salve to the raw wounds left by Black, with the ballistics of "There Goes My Gun" and the twisted tumbleweed of "Silver" being prime examples. She was also the only one who addressed the crowd from time to time, and she smiled pretty much continually.
After the visual overload of "Into The White," the stage being flooded with smoke and flashing strobes, the band came back for an encore of early material from the first EP ("Caribou," "Vamos" with Joey Santiago burning through finger skin as he worked that slide riff) and the first record ("Where Is Mind" and Deal's finest moment as a Pixie, "Gigantic"). Throughout the show, the stage design, mainly consisting of four large, linked spheres that could change position and colors and a screen backdrop, really meshed well with what the Pixies were doing. They aren't the most visually exciting band, but the projected images and videos were appropriately edgy, and, dare I say, arty.
Jay Reatard had a new band and bashed out a marathon set (by his standards) of nearly 35 minutes. His raucous garage-fused punk rock slammed out in two-minute increments while his untamed mane of curly hair flew about and hid his face most of the time.
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