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Concert review: How did the new-look Pixies live up to their legend?

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Pixies, performing Sunday, February 23 at the Joint.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna
Jason Harris

Three and a half stars

Pixies February 23, the Joint

In the annals of Las Vegas concert lore, September 25, 2010 is one of those dates music fans talk about with a nostalgic smile. Original-lineup Pixies, playing the entire Doolittle album. I was there, and that show was everything folks say it was, a truly special night for live rock in Vegas.

Black Francis

Black Francis

Sunday night, more than three years later, the indie punkers pulled out another whopper of a show. By the numbers, we got eight songs from debut album Surfer Rosa (1988), seven from Doolittle (1989), two from Bossanova (1990) and five from the final full-length Trompe le Monde (1991), plus six songs from the band’s two new EPs, one obscure cover and one unreleased track. Whew.

That’s a fan’s dream, but many long-time supporters weren’t there to witness it, since the Pixies are without bassist Kim Deal, who left the band last year. The band is now on its second touring stand-in, Paz Lenchantin of A Perfect Circle/Zwan fame. I didn’t notice much difference on bass, but I can report her vocals weren’t as powerful as Deal’s. Songs like “Hey” and “Where Is My Mind?” will always sound great, but the interplay between Deal and frontman Black Francis was special.

But this is where we are, with three original members left on board. Joey Santiago still scorches on guitar. Drummer David Lovering still blasts away (it was also a delight to hear him sing lead on “La La Love You”). And Black Francis is still a ferocious vocalist whose primal cackles rival any in rock music. The band is a live machine, fit as can be, with setlists that change every night.

Sure, I’d love to see the original lineup back together, but it’s tough to complain about a 33-song night that included “In Heaven” (the Lady in the Radiator song from the David Lynch film Eraserhead), throwbacks “Caribou” and “Nimrod’s Son” and excellent showings from new tunes “Indie Cindy” and “Blue Eyed Hexe.” I think we all would have preferred “Debaser” to close the show in place of “Planet of Sound,” but maybe we’ll get it next time. And who knows? By then, Deal could be back in the band, anyway. Either way, I’m going.

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