A sharp contrast of styles was on display during this co-headlining show in Southern Idaho.
Pixies rocked the house over the course of their 80 minutes, and did it their way: no frills, no bullshit, and literally no banter. Joined by founding members Joey Santiago (guitar) and David Lovering (drums) as well as new bass player Paz Lenchantin (since 2014), Charles Thompson aka Black Francis never said a word to the crowd. No, not a word, just song after song after song with very few short breaks in between.
Lest you think they were being cold or unaware of the near sold-out crowd, there were many nods, smiles, and non-verbal acknowledgements. Joey even noodled with his guitar and played (well, made noises) using the cable and his hat for a few minutes while Frank (oh, ya, he goes by Frank Black sometimes also) sipped a drink and watched, smiling from behind his sunglasses. But there was no mention of Frank’s upcoming birthday (he turned 54 the day after this show) nor the 25th anniversary of the tragic (and highly suspect) passing of Kurt Cobain, a famous Pixies fan who credited their music as a major influence.
Instead, we got rock and roll – straight up, served with angst, and biting lyrics that included wholehearted screams and multiple songs sung in Spanish. We got deep cuts like “Mr. Grieves”, “Isla de Encanta”, and “Vamos” – the first of which elicited a huge reaction from the crowd when Frank gave his best evil chuckle to open the song (“Hope everything is all right…”). We also heard many of the hits (“Where Is My Mind?”, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, “Here Comes Your Man”) and fan favorites (“Gouge Away”, “Bone Machine”, and “Wave of Mutilation”).
The most exciting part of the evening was a slew of new material mixed in: four new songs by my count. One can assume these dark and eerily tasty songs will be released on their announced but yet untitled album due out this September. A combination of the lyrics and some internet research tells me these new tracks are “In the Witching Hour”, “Death Horizon”, “Catfish Kate”, and my favorite “Graveyard Hill”.
This new album could be a damn fine one, if these songs are any indication. Their last two records (with Paz on bass and backing vocals) were largely panned by critics but I stand by them as being no worse than decent efforts, and two songs from those recent works were also represented here (“Classic Masher” and the pretty “All the Saints”). I wish they had included “Talent”, but as the Stones say, you can’t always get what ya want.
After an extended, jam version of “Gigantic”, their time was up – but they didn’t waste a single minute, folks. In the end, Black Francis was yet again the coolest guy in the room, his band brought it, and I had a blast. Viva Pixies!
Where is My Mind?
All the Saints
Death Horizon (new unreleased track)
Here Comes Your Man
Catfish Kate (new unreleased track)
Graveyard Hill (new unreleased track)
Monkey Gone To Heaven
Wave of Mutilation
In the Witching Hour (new unreleased track)
Isla de Encanta
Spotify setlist playlist link (sans the 4 new songs, of course): https://open.spotify.com/user/1217400912/playlist/7eJPZG38IQA447riMBpLJB?si=1208ZSgkSK6zrg4lFPNtGA
For their 80 minutes, River Cuomo and crew (Brian Bell on guitar, Pat Wilson on drums, and Scott Shriner on bass) went a completely different direction, channeling vintage arena-rock entertainers a la KISS. We were given multiple stage setups, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and Rivers touring the entire arena floor on a motorized boat. Oh, and before their set even started, they came out in full costumes and gave us a brief barbershop quartet rendition of “Beverly Hills”.
Thankfully, we were also given a much narrower setlist than their co-headliners had gone with. I say that as a big fan of their work from ’92-’01 who really doesn’t care much for what they have done over the last seventeen years. They seemed to acknowledge the weakness of their recent efforts buy playing almost exclusively from their debut (The Blue Album), Pinkerton, The Green Album, and their latest covers record (The Teal Album). Frankly, I could have done with less of the covers but will admit that a couple of them are true gems…
About halfway through their set, Rivers hopped in an automated cart fashioned to look like a boat, and slowly (really slowly, and gleefully hamming it up along the way) traveled to the back of the arena where he performed two songs solo with his acoustic guitar: “In the Garage” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”.
Equipped with his trademark lightning bolt guitar strap, Rivers was in full showman mode, one that fits him very well. It is impossible not to like this guy – he is having a blast and even though he mentioned Boise far too many times for my taste, he seems sincerely ecstatic about where his band and his life has gone, and just wants to spread joy. Hard to hate on a guy like that, even if it’s a bit much for me.
As if the hits weren’t enough, we got pyrotechnics that rival Metallica and fireworks towards the end of the night as well – even some confetti and streamers a la The Flaming Lips.
Yes, this was a party as much as a display of musicianship, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have fun or that it wasn’t worth the Benjamin I spent to get a front and center seat. Sure, I had to hear “Africa” and “Beverly Hills” (twice, actually) – but I also got to hear classics like “Undone”, “Island in the Sun”, “Hash Pipe”, and “Say It Aint So”, the latter of which was a great choice for their closing song.
I Want You To
Island in the Sun
Undone – The Sweater Song
Pork and Beans
Africa (Toto cover)
Surf Wax America
High as a Kite
Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)
In the Garage (Rivers solo acoustic)
Stand By Me (Ben E. King cover – Rivers solo acoustic)
Everybody Wants to Rule the Word (Tears for Fears cover)
Take on Me (a-ha cover)
Say It Aint So
Spotify setlist playlist link: https://open.spotify.com/user/1217400912/playlist/2auj3e3JyKEuN5zTPi9oBZ?si=_CTYxUG7TtWlj4gCizs2Gg