ARCHIVE of District of Cacophony

December 11, 2009 | REVIEWS

Pixies @ DAR Constitution Hall, 12/1/09

I wasn’t totally sure about going to see the Pixies — it was a show that violated a lot of my self-imposed guidelines, like “no more reunion shows” and “no more shows that cost more than 25 bucks or so” and “no more shows ever at Constitution Hall, the worst venue in the area to see rock and roll.”

But it turned out to be a great show (with the typical Constitution Hall caveat that it would have been a million times better at a place like the 930 Club or even an arena). The Pixies have been in the reunion-tour business for a few years now but there still seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm among the crowd, even though this second night of a two-night stand wasn’t close to sold-out. Their current tour features a full performance of their album Doolittle, including b-sides. The only other time I’ve seen one of these “play the whole album” deals was a Sonic Youth show in New York a couple years ago where they played Daydream Nation, which I pretty much have memorized note for note; I know Doolittle almost as well. I think these album-shows are ok, though it helps when the albums are nearly perfect. Doolittle is less than perfect but pretty amazing.

Before the band took the stage, they rather appropriately played four or five minutes of Un chien andalou on the screen. Then they played b-sides (best to get them out of the way) before kicking into “Debaser.” The set was pretty good — Doolittle has a good mix of classics and quirky weird songs (like “No. 13 Baby” and “La La Love You”). The only really flawed song on the album is “Silver” and luckily they ended it quickly before going to one of their very best songs, “Gouge Away.”

So the Doolittle set was great. But it was the stuff they played afterwards that really stood out. It included the only b-side that I recognized (the awesome “Into the White”) and then really got into gear with basically all the other good Pixies songs (mostly from Surfer Rosa).

The band even started doing showmanship-stuff like this pretty amusing bit during “Vamos” (did they do this back in the day?):

Overall it was a totally fun show. It was a bit disorienting, though. I mean, I wasn’t into the Pixies back in the day — I think I was just vaguely aware of them. I was slightly too young to yet be aware of underground music; I got into the Pixies during the ’90s via Nirvana, the Breeders, and alternative rock. Their music was always something historical — an obvious key influence on the bands I loved in high school, the link between ’80s college rock and ’90s alt-rock. Seeing them live was a time-warp experience, like seeing Nirvana or something. It has to do with their sound — unmistakable and extremely influential. Hundreds of bands in the ’90s sounded just like them. It was just strange to see the genuine article living and breathing, like a quartet of coelacanths flopping onto the stage of Constitution Hall.