Live Review: Here Come the Pixies

Influential indie rockers blast back in Minnesota

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the Pixies' case, a dozen years away from the stage has only helped their legend -- not just a consistently brilliant catalogue that converts thousands of new listeners every year, but the sense that the Pixies' tremendous effect on other bands (Nirvana pledged allegiance, for a start) was about to be rewarded commercially as well as aesthetically. Instead, the band broke up, and while bassist Kim Deal's Breeders and frontman Frank Black's solo career did just fine, neither one ever eclipsed the Pixies, as music or as legend.

"Legendary" isn't exactly how Black, Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago, or drummer David Lovering appeared at the outset of their reunion trek at Minneapolis' Fine Line on Tuesday night. Instead, they appeared as hard workers transported by their craft, frequently keeping their heads down as they ripped through a career-spanning set, from 1987's "Caribou" through 1991's "U-Mass," taking a detour for Neil Young's "Winterlong." Frank Black (or Black Francis, as he was known in his Pixies days), clad in flannel and jeans, scrunched his eyes shut as he hollered gleefully at the climax of "Debaser" (the song that got the loudest applause). Deal, all in black, grinned like mad behind a face full of hair. A long-haired and black-capped Lovering appeared -- and played -- like he'd won the rock-drummer lottery. The dapper Santiago, looked like the Son of Zorro, glanced around the stage like a host concerned about making his guests comfortable, while reeling out one perfect lead after another.

The choice of venue might have had something to do with that work ethic. Minneapolis's Fine Line houses 800 maximum, a number the club kept steadily to despite a horde of anxious fans hoping to get in. (There were still seventy-five or so even after the show -- which sold out in a reported four minutes -- had finished.) The space's intimacy could have given the Pixies room to meander if they'd wanted, but there was nothing sloppy about the show. They landed on every mark while still seeming casual, and although the band didn't talk much between songs there was a real sense of generosity in the air: twenty-seven songs covering the entire catalogue. And the audience shouted along with damn near everything, giving as good as they got.

Pixies set list:

Bone Machine
Wave of Mutilation
U-Mass
Levitate Me
Broken Face
Monkey Gone to Heaven
The Holiday Song
Winterlong
Nimrod's Son
La La Love You
Ed Is Dead
Here Comes Your Man
Vamos
Debaser
Dead
No. 13 Baby
Tame
Gigantic
Gouge Away
Caribou

Isla de Encanta
Something Against You
Velouria
In Heaven
Wave of Mutilation
Where Is My Mind?
Into the White

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