Thursday, November 25th, 2004
Wave Of Mutilation
Pixies! Before I get into it, I should say that any sort of perceived grumpiness or wet blanket-ness probably has little to do with the show itself, and more with the pain in the butt-ness of getting up to Arrow Hall and back, logistically speaking. Without getting into detail, I’m down here, it’s up there, and there’s a whole lotta highway in between. I don’t drive much, so the adventure can cause a little anxiety. But whatever, that’s neither here nor there (well, I just said I’m here and it’s there, but whatever).
I made it to Arrow Hall along with Travis and Molly of the 10:51 AM empire just in time to catch the second half of The Datsuns’ set. I was not impressed. Or more like, they were alright at what they were doing, which is riffy/bluesy/garage-y/wah-saturated hair-whipping classic rock sorta stuff, but that’s not my bag. I thought them an odd choice to open for the Pixies, whose eclectic sort of college rock was an antidote for that sort of thing when they arrived on the scene 15 odd years ago. But they weren’t on long so that was fine.
And then the Pixies. They were TIGHT. Kicking things off on a slower note with “In Heaven” and the slow version of “Wave Of Mutilation”, they powered through an hour and fifteen minute set of hit after hit (hit being a very relative term, of course), almost without pause. I think they covered pretty much every song anyone would want to hear, barring the more left-field selections (and to be honest, I would have loved to hear Kim say, “There were rumours he was into field hockey players…”, but that probably wouldn’t have translated so well live). The performance was almost note-perfect (I caught one drum flub), which struck me as a little odd considering that the Pixies built their reputation on being more than a little loopy and “out there”. The efficiency and precision demonstrated by this reunited outfit was a far cry from the stories I’d heard about them from their first go-around, as capable of playing awful shows as great ones. Unfortunately, I thought that this intensity also took away from the feel of the show a little bit – the fun and humour inherent in their music felt stifled. And maybe it’s just a consequence of large venues, but I felt somewhat disconnected from the band and Frank Black Francis’ decision to power from one song into the next without even acknowleding the audience didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t want him to do a “Hello, Toronto!” shout out, but I thought they came across as a band hard at work, the key word being “work”. Okay, at this point, before anyone starts lambasting me for this POV, I refer you back to my opening paragraph. Thanks.
They did seem to progressively loosen up as the show went on though, and seemed almost giddy during set closer “Gigantic”, with Frank speaking to the audience for the first time. Instead of leaving the stage before the encore, they engaged in some sort of horseplay (I couldn’t really tell what was going on from my vantage point) and then wrapped things up for good with “La La Love You” and “Vamos”, the latter of which featured an extended “let’s see what kind of noises we can make while abusing our guitar” solo. Very nice – some more of that sort of improvisation would have been welcome throughout the show. But what I was saying earlier about efficiency? They packed 29 songs into an hour and a half set – no mean feat. And thankfully, the sound was really good – again, in a big concrete hangar like Arrow Hall, that’s an impressive accomplishment.
I was curious as to what sort of crowd was going to show up for this show – would there be the late-era Gen X-ers who came of age with the Pixies in the late 80s/early 90s and were looking to indulge in some nostalgia? Or current day indie kids seeking to pay their respects to the giants who paved the way for all they hold musically dear? A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. Actually, I thought the latter camp far outnumbered the former, which surprised me a bit. Even though the Pixies were well before their time – hell, they were almost before my time and I wager I was older than a lot of attendees – they’ve obviously still managed to make a pretty strong connection with the next generation. Pretty damned impressive. I noticed on the way out that the t-shirts for sale were labelled “Pixies Sellout”, which I think is not giving them enough credit. Sure, their motivation for getting back together may have been financially motivated, but “Sellout” implies that they’ve compromised their art somehow or that they’re cheating the fans (hello Sex Pistols!), where nothing could be further from the truth. I can’t believe you’d find anyone out of the 9000 in attendance last night who left the wastelands of northern Mississauga feeling anything but completely satisfied.
So to sum up – fantastic performance by the band, (very) mild grumpiness from me about stuff that no one has any real control over, no photos (was not going to try and sneak a camera in or fight to get close enough to get any sort of shots). And Frank Black appears to play the same acoustic guitar I have (Takamine N-10), except mine doesn’t have a big Willie Nelson-esque hole worn through the top. Nice. Setlist was as follows:
1. In Heaven (vocals by Kim)
2. Wave of Mutilation (slow version)
3. Where Is My Mind
4. Blown Away
5. Nimrod’s Son
6. Here Comes Your Man
7. Ed Is Dead
8. Planet Of Sound
9. Bone Machine
10. I Bleed
11. Crackity Jones
12. Monkey Gone To Heaven
13. Broken Face
14. Isla de Encanta
18. No. 13 Baby
19. Mr. Grieves
21. Gouge Away
24. Wave Of Mutilation
28. La La Love You
Note – the photo above is NOT from last ngiht – it’s from Frankblack.net and was taken at the Pixies’ April 24 show in Vancouver. I will replace it with a Toronto pic if and when I find one. And if anyone finds a bit torrent of this show, lemme know s’il vous plait? Merci.
Rolling Stone has some details on the Warner-era REM reissues coming out January 25. In what may become a more common trend, the second disc will actually be a DVD and feature the album remixed in 5.1 surround as well as contain a host of video/documentary footage and commentary. I’m horribly lazy when it comes to watching bonus DVDs, so while it sounds good in theory, I’m not overly excited about it. I much prefer media that I can slap in my discman when walking around, listen to at work… Committing the time to sit on my ass in front of the TV is too much work. From Coolfer.
The cancelled Razorlight show from last month (or was it this month?) has been rescheduled for January 12 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $12.50.
Thanks to everyone who voted me as one of the best local blogs in this year’s eye Best of Toronto poll (along with Accordian Guy, Betterlivingcentre.ca and Navigate The Streets – though I confess I don’t really understand what I’m looking at with Navigate the Streets…). That’s just neat. Do I get one of those ‘Best Of’ laminate placard things to put in my washroom?
Happy Turkey Day to our American cousins.
np – The Wedding Present / Singles 1995-1997