Friday, November 27, 2009

We partied like it was 1989

Judging by some of their recent late night talk show appearances, I was worried the Pixies might have lost some of their youthful energy. But really I knew that those shows are rather sterile environments, with everything businesslike and timed down to the second, taped in the afternoon, family friendly and all that—so I wasn't really worried. And rightly so—last night's show at Hammerstein Ballroom was everything you could have asked for. I hardly ever go to rock concerts (the only other notable acts I've seen are the Decemberists and Bob Dylan (oh yeah, and, um, Ani DiFranco, for some reason)), but I can't imagine it getting any better than this. I don't think it's a stretch to say it was like seeing the Beatles. They are sort of "the Beatles of indie rock", I think, as far as their musical importance goes, if not their level of fame. It was fun watching people dance and sing along, most of the 3,000+ in attendance having long ago memorized every note played by every instrument in every song. It was also fun seeing a landmark work of old school Surrealist art—several minutes of Un Chien Andalou—displayed on a big screen and appreciated by all these screaming young people. It was actually the first time I'd ever seen it, featuring of course the famous "slicin' up eyeballs" scene referenced in "Debaser".

They started with four Doolittle-era B-sides: "Dancing the Manta Ray," "Bailey's Walk," "Weird at My School," and "Manta Ray". "Weird at My School" is a favorite of mine. Really funny song. Then they played all of Doolittle, which served to enhance my appreciation for even the "lesser" songs on the album. The first encore was "Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)" and "Into the White", and they ended with "Bone Machine," "Dig for Fire," "Gigantic," and "Vamos". There were a couple of mistakes during the second encore, but that was all the more endearing somehow. They got off to a bad start on "Bone Machine" because it does that weird thing of accenting beats 1 and 3 instead of 2 and 4. After "Dig for Fire" (another personal favorite), they started to play "Velouria," but Black Francis wasn't happy with something—he cut the band off, switched guitars, and they played "Gigantic" instead. And of course "Vamos", their long-time closer, I believe, featured Joey doing things with the guitar that the guitar was never designed to do—on this particular night he used a drumstick.

When it was over I looked at the time and couldn't believe almost two hours had passed. I'll never forget it. Later I found this picture by a Twitter user named vaddled.

You can imagine the sound equivalent of that blinding white light pummeling us all. Sheer ecstasy. (Though next time (please let there be one) I'll probably invest in a pair of earplugs.)

And to think, they did it all again a couple hours later.

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