The Pixies Pummel On at Lincoln Theatre

IMG_3860Conventional wisdom says the road from the Stooges to Nirvana went through the Pixies. And though they never broke through to the degree of some of their emulators, the driving Massachusetts band returned from a long hiatus this century to see just how engrained their songs had become. In ads alone, their anthems got much more play than they did on radio — from “Gigantic” for iPhones to “Where is My Mind?” for both Samsung and Acura.

Following its big reunion tour in 2004 that came with just one new track, the band continues in a slightly different form. Paz Lenchantin may be the first woman not named Kim to play bass for the band, replacing original Kim Deal and Kim Shattuck, who briefly toured in her stead.

In the first of a pair of shows at D.C.’s Lincoln Theatre Tuesday, the Pixies had something more to prove: As much as people loved those first few albums that have become touchstones in rock — and beloved oldies dominated the generous 31-song show — many of the tracks from their unjustly ignored latest album “Head Carrier” from last year deserved to alongside the enshrined classics.

Indeed nine from the new one were played to fine affect — the same number played from the beloved 1989 “Doolittle.” And while their 1988 debut “Surfer Rosa’ and 1987 EP “Come On Pilgrim” were liberally sampled as well, there was just a peep from their somewhat uneven initial comeback album, 2014’s “Indie Cindy.”

In the D.C. show, Black Francis and company seemed at first that they’d be obscured from the sold out crowd for most of the night, judging from the banks of lights pointed at the audience from behind the band and an active smoke machine.

The silhouettes of the group were almost as powerful as seeing them clearly, and closely reflected the opaque nature of their raging repertoire. Lights shifted with each selection however, and it was possible soon enough to make up Francis’ hulking figure on lead vocals and guitar; Joey Santiago, looking like a professor these days, on guitar; David Lovering making his presence known on drums; and Lenchantin, once of the band A Perfect Circle, both acquitting herself well on bass and adding those crucial female vocals. Eventually, she sang lead on the song she co-wrote, a song she encouraged that was meant as a farewell to Deal, “All I Think About Now,” winning a prominent place just before the show ending “Debaser.”

The Pixies are kind of winging it on the current tour, though, switching up the setlist of every show, such that show closers become show openers the next night and some career high points are left out (in Tuesday’s case, “Velouria” for one) and surprises put in (“Ed is Dead,” “Rock Music”). For the seeming randomness of the song selection though, it all seemed to work.

A loping guitar figure led to the opening “Gouge Away” and just drove harder from there. A large chunk in the midsection of the show starting with “All the Saints” had Francis taking a slightly softer approach, playing acoustic rhythm guitar in songs that displayed their reliable dynamics, described in the title of the 2006 movie about them, loudQUIETloud.” They’d blast away at the end again.

They never spoke to the audience at all, let alone comment on the explosive political turns in the city. But when Francis began “Mr. Grieves” with its insinuating inquiry, “Hope everything is alright,” the message was received nonetheless. (Its chorus seemed to speak to cable news’ talking head overload:  “Do you have another opinion? Yup!”).

Their one cover — of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” is by now so entwined with their sound it might as well be part of the permanent catalog.

The speed and melodicism of the new songs prevented them from becoming lulls between the oldies; they held up their end as the show sped on.

There was a weird thing at the end when, at the end of “Debaser,” they didn’t try to milk an encore by leaving; they stayed on stage and waved and took a bow and. Only after the smoke machine released an enormous cloud to obscure them completely did they play “Into the White” as a final song, white light reflecting on the theater-wide cloud making its own new lighting effect.

The opening band Cymbals Eat Guitars from Staten Island, made an impression with big, guitar-driving songs that shook with their own melody. Without a lot of hubbub or hubris, they knew they had a pretty cool sound. They’ll be back in town to headline at the Black Cat July 27.


The setlist for The Pixies Tuesday was:


  • “Gouge Away”
  • “Classic Masher”
  • “Something Against You”
  • “Isla de Encanta”
  • “Tenement Song”
  • “Magdalena 318″
  • “Plaster of Paris”
  • “Ed Is Dead”
  • “Brick is Red”
  • “Cactus”
  • “Caribou”
  • “U-Mass”
  • “Talent”
  • “Monkey Gone to Heaven”
  • “All the Saints”
  • “Ana”
  • “Here Comes Your Man”
  • “Mr. Grieves”
  • “Winterlong”
  • “Where Is My Mind?”
  • “No. 13 Baby”
  • “Might as Well Be Gone”
  • “Hey”
  • “Bel Esprit”
  • “I’ve Been Tired”
  • “Um Chagga Lagga”
  • “Wave of Mutilation”
  • “Rock Music”
  • “Tame”
  • “All I Think About Now”
  • “Debaser”
  • “Into the White”


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