PIXIES: MASSEY HALL, 01/15/2014
A lot has changed for Pixies since the last time they graced the hallowed hardwood floor of the Massey Hall stage. First, and most importantly, Kim Deal has left the band. Second, and almost as important, after twenty-two long years Pixies actually have new music to promote and tour in support of. When last they came through town (in 2011 as part of the seemingly never-ending Doolittle anniversary tour), the band was still happy to play the songs that everyone wanted to hear and cash the cheque at the end of the day, but they knew if they were going to continue to tour, they needed to have new songs at some point. The band had been trying for years to persuade Deal to put aside her reservations about ruining the untarnished recorded legacy of Pixies and get down to recording new music. The group finally committed to recording sessions in the fall of 2012 in Wales with longtime producer (and unofficial fifth Pixie) Gil Norton.
No sooner had the band started to find its footing again in the studio when Deal abruptly announced that she was quitting; leaving the guys to ponder what the future (if any) of the band would be. After a brief pause, the remaining Pixies finished work on what would end up becoming the recently released EP1 and EP2 (with a third on the way), and to begin the search for a new bass player. They found Deal’s replacement in Kim Shattuck and played with her on a sold out and critically acclaimed European tour, but then mysteriously replaced her once the tour had concluded.
That brings us to January 15, 2014 at Massey Hall, where the Pixies launch the North American leg of their latest tour, with Paz Lenchantin (of A Perect Circle and Zwan fame) filling in on bass duties…for now at least.
Given that the band has been playing the nostalgia circuit for almost ten years now, it certainly comes as no surprise that they would want to start their set off with the new material…and so the set began with a song that hasn’t even been released yet: “Silver Snail”. The new track was a mid-tempo number that kept the audience in their seats, where they remained for the following five songs. It wasn’t until the instantly recognizable pop chords of “Here Comes Your Man” that the crowd began to uphold their end of the bargain.
As with every Pixies show, the setlist would touch on all of their previous releases, but there was particular attention being paid to Surfer Rosa on this night. “Nimrod’s Son”, “Levitate Me”, “Bone Machine”, “Broken Face” and the rarely played live, “Brick is Red”, all received wonderful renditions and warm applause.
Other highlights included: very rare outings for Bossanova’s “Ana”, Trompe Le Monde’s “Motorway To Roswell” and Surfer Rosa’s “I’ve been Tired”; a fierce version of the new “Bagboy”; and the perfect ear shredding encore of "Planet of Sound”.
By the time the last note was played the band had gone through all eight of the new songs and had pulled off the trick of having the new material blend flawlessly with the old. Not only did the material blend, but so did the musicians. If Pixies fans had any reservations about someone else filling Kim Deal’s not insignificant shoes, then they must have been mighty relieved to witness Paz Lenchantin in action. If in the beginning she seemed somewhat hesitant performing the backing vocal role, she clearly conquered that by the midway point of the set. As for her playing? Let’s just say that Pixies will not find a more competent player: she is a perfect fit!
Sure, this is not the Pixies of 1989, but guess what? Time marches on! What is exciting is that this seminal band is making new music and allowing themselves the freedom to create once again. We don’t need them to influence another generation of indie-rockers, we should just need them to write some more great songs!
- Johnny Hooper