On the last of its sold-out three-night residency at the Roseland Theatre in Portland, the Pixies played straight and fast. Clad in all black, the band whipped through 90 minutes of material. Despite playing consecutive shows starting Wednesday, they created a solid wall of sound.
The Boston band, known for its dense, intellectual surf punk, is touring in support of “Head Carrier,” the band’s sixth album and second after reuniting with the full length “Indie Cindy.” Pixies currently comprises founding members Black Francis (vocals, rhythm guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), David Lovering (drums). Bassist Paz Lenchantin is touring in place of original bassist and vocalist Kim Deal.
If Francis, Santiago, Lovering and Lenchantin were tired or a little bored from the previous two nights, it was certainly hard to tell. Opening with fan-favorite “Where Is My Mind,” proved to be the right choice. Fans sang along, and then the band launched into “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf version)” which they revisited later in the set. Francis began with a worn acoustic guitar in hand, but a few songs in he switched to his Telecaster.
The band proceeded to rip through some of its harsher and less accessible songs as lights glared behind them on stage. Francis’s vocal range varies from speak-singing to howling to a more melodic middle ground. In the middle of the set, he settled on speak-singing and howling, which takes on an even rawer form live than in recording. Lenchantin, whose bass was adorned with a single fabric flower, complemented Francis’s vocals well. Her voice serves as an adequate replacement for Deal’s, especially on songs such as “Monkey Gone to Heaven.”
While openers The Orwells relied on lead singer Mario Cuomo, to keep the audience engaged, the Pixies didn’t need large stage movements like Cuomo’s to keep their fans engrossed.
Santiago played with pedal effects on his guitar during a few songs, and after the audience cheered, he smiled. Lovering moved between energetic bursts and consistent rhythm keeping in a careful manner. Even when a rogue audience member ran onto the Roseland’s stage and grasped Francis from behind, the band didn’t falter. She was escorted off amid screams from other women in the audience.
With no stage banter between songs, the group was able to launch from one song to the next quickly. Members weren’t always on the same page when these faster songs started, and they’d start songs in small spurts before trying again. “Nimrod’s Son” stood out among these middle songs, generating audience cheers.
After playing a second version of “Wave of Mutilation,” they began to close the set, playing a slew of songs including “Tame” and “U-Mass.” While the previous night was heavy on 1989’s “Doolittle,” the Pixies relied on their other albums too, even if nine songs still came from “Doolittle.”
The Pixies never left the stage, even before the encore. Members took turns waving at the audience, smiling and regarding every corner of the venue from different parts of the stage. They joined together center stage bathed in light, and took a bow before returning to their instruments for “Doolittle’s” “Debaser.”
Even though each night has featured a different set list, Pixies played, for the most part, like they had a consistent, well-rehearsed plan. It’s clear that the Pixies, despite the changes the band has gone through in recent years, know what they are doing. And if this sold out residency has shown anything, they are doing it right.
Where Is My Mind?
Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
All the Saints
Ed Is Dead
Isla de Encanta
Um Chagga Lagga
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Planet of Sound
The Holiday Song
Break My Body
All I Think About Now
Wave of Mutliation
I’ve Been Tired