The Pixies have been back with us for nearly a decade now. Since their 2004 reunion, the hugely influential alt-rock band have been playing the old songs as well as ever. However, last night at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, the Pixies proved that they have entered a new phase as they delivered four new songs, including the still-unreleased “Blue Eyed Hexe,” that fit easily into the 75-minute set.
The hardest job of the night – the first of four sold-out evenings at the El Rey – belonged to bassist Kim Shattuck. It was her second gig with the band since stepping in for Kim Deal, who left the band earlier this year, and Shattuck still looked elated. She arrived with her own history as a gifted songwriter and performer with the Muffs, and brought snap and attitude to the stage. She was the only member to speak directly to the room, greeting cheering fans at the beginning the show with, “Nice! What a beautiful crowd.”
The rest of the group was in fine form, too. During their cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On,” singer-guitarist Black Francis roared with ominous force, slashing at his blood-red Gibson, his silhouette backlit in bright, otherworldly streaks of purple and white light. Drummer David Lovering looked like he just stepped off the golf course in his white short-sleeves and cap but pounded wildly between verses on “I’m Amazed.”
The group leaned heavily on two-minute blasts of noise and melody, from the hooky “Wave of Mutilation” to a dreamy “Havelina,” the latter featuring spooky surf leads from guitarist Joey Santiago. The quartet erected a bristling wall of sound on “U-Mass” and unfurled the speedy Spanglish madness of “Crackity Jones.” Francis erupted with a crazed, catlike growl on “Rock Music” and uncorked cries of agony on “Debaser.” As he began “Gouge Away,” the crowd immediately sang along.
The new song to earn the strongest reaction was “Bagboy,” which was released online with two striking music videos in June, just weeks after the band announced Deal’s exit. It was a good sign for the future. The other new songs performed Monday were “Another Toe in the Ocean” and “What Goes Boom.”
The band closed with a frantic “Planet of Sound,” and Francis waved his goodbye during the final chords. There was no encore, even as fans shouted for several minutes demanding more, and after the curtains closed. By now, at least, fans can be confident the band is sticking around for the long haul.