The Pixies: A Well-Oiled Machine
On Tuesday October 3, the Pixies were at the historic Cleveland Agora. A minute or two after 9 p.m., the band came on-stage and brought a ferocity rarely brought by younger bands. Remember, Doolittle came out in 1989. Wave of Mutilation started out the set and it was back into the time capsule. For 2 hours the Pixies tore it up, never taking their foot off the gas, seemingly only taking short breaths between songs to rotate guitars or re-establish their footing in the playlist.
I can't imagine that any Pixies fan was disappointed. They hit all the right notes and nailed every song that the audience craved. But let me tell you a secret, I'm not the biggest Pixies fan. My favorite Pixies song is Wave of Mutilation, the (UK Surf Version). It haunts you like a fever-driven nightmare. It is subtle, and beautiful, and raw. But I don't own that much of the Pixies discography. The Wave of Mutilation version that the Pixies played on Tuesday night was much more faithful to the Doolittle version, which is fine. The production, the sound, the light show, everything was perfect. For one night, they were the biggest little band in the world. When the band was done playing, they got a standing ovation and seemed genuinely happy with each other and the audience. I couldn't figure out what was off, not with them, but with me.
Then they came back for the encore, turned off the light show, the fog machines, and, I think, some of their sound equipment. For one song, they looked like just another band in the club. Stripped of the periphery production, they actually sounded better....
I really enjoy Minor League Hockey. I remember watching the Cleveland Lumberjacks when they moved from Muskegon to Cleveland. I watched the games when there were 10,000 fans and when there were 1,000 fans. Today the Lake Erie Monsters have replaced the Lumberjacks and they're back to 10,000 fans a night. What happened in between? You found out how many true hardcore
hockey fans there are in this town.
For 8 of the past 10 years, the Lake Erie Monsters have been dreadful, failing to make the playoffs. One year, and one year alone, they caught lightning in a bottle and won the Calder Cup. Despite just one fleeting year of success in 2015-2016, the Monsters were one of the best drawing teams of the past decade in the AHL. The reason? Because it wasn't about selling tickets to a hockey game, Dan Gilbert made it about the fan experience.
Kids making posters, the shirt slingshot, any gimmick you could think of, which is fine. But I bought tickets to watch hockey and on most nights the Monsters were undersized and overmatched. My wife told me the family had a good time and that's all that mattered. They didn't understand how bad the hockey was....
Which circles us back to the subject at hand. My problem with the concert was that I was expecting The Pixies Band and what I got was The Pixies Event.
One of the revelations of the concert was Joey Santiago. Precise, like a surgeon, I had underestimated Santiago's presence in the Pixies. It was his unique, restrained lead guitar that balanced out Black Francis' bluster. His notes cut through to the songs' core and certain memorable guitar chords in my mind were all owned by Santiago. Paz Lenchantin was a work(wo)manlike replacement for Kim Deal. The 4 cogs in the Pixies machine showed why they are more than just their independent parts.
Photo from Jeff Neisel at Cleveland Scene.
Click on the Photo for Scene's Review and More Pictures.
Again, any problems with the show had to do with my perceptions and not with the show itself.