- September 25, The Joint
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- Chatting with Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago (9/22/10)
At 10:33 on Saturday night I stood inside the Joint, wondering what the Pixies might play next. The sensation felt strange, given that I’d heard 21 songs already without the least hint of uncertainty. That’s a by-product of the band’s Doolittle tour, on which the reunited alt-rock icons play their 1989 album, front to back, along with six B-sides from the era, at every stop. It got me wondering: How good can a rock show be when it lacks the element of spontaneity?
Pretty freaking good, it turns out. Liberating as those few minutes of impulsive encore activity might have been, they ultimately amounted to bonus tracks. Doolittle had already given Pixies fans everything they really needed—a classic original professionally executed, synchronized to video footage. Think of it as a nightly production show starring the folks who wrote the music. Minus dancing. No one paid to see Frank Black dance.
It wasn’t perfectly conceived. Warming up with a few non-Doolittle tunes made sense; doing it with obscure B-sides threatened to drain our pent-up pre-concert energy. Returning to stage post-Doolittle with two more B-sides, including a slower take on a song we’d already heard? Plain silly (though the dense white fog for Kim Deal’s “Into the White” made for a nice effect). Yet the near-sellout crowd stayed with Black, Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering throughout. Because, hey, Doolittle, man. Sometimes dependability has it all over spontaneity.
I’m actually more of a Surfer Rosa man myself, but I’ll concede that Doolittle lends itself best to this sort of straight-through presentation. The disc—once an actual record, as Deal reminded us several times—showcases all sides of the Pixies’ music, from the howling (“Tame”) to the sweet (“Here Comes Your Man”), the twisted (“Wave of Mutilation”) to the sappy (“La La Love You”), the raging (“Crackity Jones”) to the sublime (“Silver”). No song differed significantly from its studio counterpart (“No. 13 Baby” came closest, ending with a somewhat extended jam), but Black’s menacing shriek and Santiago’s fuzzy guitar also sounded just like they did 20 years ago. Which goes to show, sometimes the unknown can be an overrated concept.