THE PIXIES at Arrow Hall, November 24. Tickets: $35. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The last time the Pixies played Toronto, the band was supporting U2 at Maple Leaf Gardens on the opening leg of the Zoo TV Tour. This time around, Frank Black and co. were headlining their own massive arena show. Not bad, especially considering that the Pixies haven't put out a record since 1992.
But that's precisely why this reunion has been such a triumph. Unlike R.E.M. or even U2, whose recent recordings have diminished their stature, the Pixies' long absence has only added to their mystique and prevented them from pissing away a glorious legacy.
And with only one new song in tow, the band's 90-minute set last Wednesday (the first of two shows at Mississauga's Arrow Hall ) offered up more Gen X anthems than one of Winona Ryder's old mix tapes.
True to form, head Pixie Black barely acknowledged the audience and was virtually stationary behind the mic. But, damn it, when the man opens his mouth, he spits fire. Some of his shrieks nearly tore thePA apart. Also in fine vocal form was a cigarette-wielding Kim Deal , whose crystalline voice hasn't aged a bit.
Rather than dulling the music, Arrow Hall's gaping spaces oddly added to the experience. Not only was the show an affirming, intergenerational indie rock love-in, but the big room seemed to recreate the spacious production of the band's later recordings. Well, almost. Truthfully, the bittersweet melodies of Debaser, Where Is My Mind? and Wave Of Mutilation could warm up even the coldest of sheds.
Making good use of the massive PA, chrome-domed guitarist Joey Santiago also showed excellent chops. At one point, he took off his Les Paul, placed it on a stand beside him and ravaged the fret board with a drumstick, all the while kicking at an arsenal of guitar pedals. The resulting feedback was monstrous. It sounded like a 747 had missed the runway at nearby Pearson International and smashed into the venue.
With a pace that left little time for crowd interaction, a less than inspiring two-song encore and a steep ticket price - not to mention a lengthy drive out to the burbs for many of us - it would be easy to say the tour and this GTA appearance were massive cash grabs. Maybe, but the Pixies deserve every penny.