One of the most striking things about seeing the Pixies in 2014 is how vital and urgent the band's old songs remain nearly three decades after their original release. And now that they've unleashed new music over the past few months that fits easily alongside the classics, there's no reason to think the Pixies can't find a new audience that will revere them as much as the old fans from the '80s do.
Saturday night's show at The Great Saltair was full of those older fans, to be sure, but there were also a surprising number of attendees who likely weren't born when the Pixies released their last proper album, Trompe Le Monde, in 1991. (As I waited in line at Will Call to grab my tickets, three girls around 15 or 16 were trying to remember the words to "Monkey Gone to Heaven"--clearly they've been raised right.)
All on hand were treated to a blast through more than two dozen songs touching on all the band's albums, including several of the new tunes recently released on EP1 and EP2. Black Francis' voice--his growls, yelps, shouts and screams--remains one of the more singular sounds of any rock band. Combined with Joey Santiago's surf-y guitar squalls, David Lovering's creative drum work and touring bassist Paz Lenchantin's driving playing, that voice led the Pixies through a set that turned the Saltair into a swarming hive of happy fans.
The opening blast of songs was a stunning run through some old favorites, including "Bone Machine," "Wave of Mutilation," "UMass," the band's cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On," and "Monkey Gone to Heaven." It was a thrilling way to get the evening started on the Pixies' first visit to Salt Lake City since their original reunion tour a decade ago. It also immediately built up some good will for the new songs that many in attendance probably aren't familiar with yet, although that could change given how great some of the new songs worked during the show.
"Magdalena" was the first of the new songs to make an appearance, coming early on in the set, and its insistent hooks made it one of the best performances of the night, especially of the new material. "Gouge Away" and "Planet of Sound" bookended another new one, "What Goes Boom," while the driving new "Blue Eyed Hexe" led into "Crackity Jones" from 1989's Doolittle.
As the show moved into its second half, older songs dominated. "Caribou" was brilliant, "Here Comes Your Man" led into a killer "La La Love You." "Nimrod's Son," "Velouria," "Broken Face" and "Debaser" were all excellent. Encores that included the iconic "Where Is My Mind?" and another strong performance of a new song, "Greens and Blues," put a capper on a brilliant show overall.
There was little in the way of between-song banter from Black Francis; rather, he and the band let the music do all the work, along with a pretty stellar light show, and sound that was better than I expected for the warehouse venue by the Great Salt Lake. Surely some were bummed the band didn't play its ode to the Saltair, "Palace of the Brine," but that's a pretty minor quibble. And while the bubbly on-stage presence of long-time bassist Kim Deal is missed, Lenchantin had no problem filling her spot vocally or on bass. If making her a full-time member of the band is an option, it's one Francis, Santiago and Lovering should consider.
No matter what the future, Saturday's gig sure seemed to show that the band has a bright one if it wants to continue. Black Francis has said he's finished as a solo artist, preferring to work with the Pixies from here on out. Let's hope that's true. We can all use more shows like the one they delivered Saturday night.