Few bands are capable of epitomizing an era without becoming simultaneously bound by its constraints. As great as they are, bands like Nirvana or Pearl Jam will always be defined as Grunge Bands. Not so with The Pixies, however. While no conversation about pre-grunge alternative rock would be complete without talking about Black Francis and Kim Deal, would we ever call The Pixies "just a 80's alt-rock band"? Probably not. Like their mythical namesakes, The Pixies have become a thing of legend - a source of inspiration for an entire generation of musicians (everyone from Kurt Cobain to Kings of Leon has cited The Pixies as a huge influence in their music) and a bucket-list concert for many rock fans. Which is why Wednesday's show at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was both supremely awesome and at times a little disappointing.
In a city where opening acts often get almost as much attention as the headliner, the opening set by Los Angeles duo Best Coast definitely wasn't one of those moments. Although they had a solid set and rocked out on a couple of songs (including what's perhaps their best-known song, "Boyfriend"), the band's normally lush sound suffers a little outside of the studio, and the crowd didn't seem to connect with their music. Although the crowd's response may have been muted for Best Coast, there was no doubting their enthusiasm when The Pixies went on. The crowd was on their feet from the minute the lights dimmed, and they stayed there throughout the band's marathon thirty song set. It took Black Francis and the gang (which now includes A Perfect Circle bassist Paz Lenchantin, replacing Kim Deal, who left the band last year) a little while to hit their groove, but once they did, they tore through their set list with relentless intensity and absolutely no stage banter - just one classic Pixies tune after another. (With the exception of Gigantic, all the iconic Pixies songs you'd expect made the set list.)
Was it amazing? Yes. Was it great? Yes. Was it underwhelming? Yeah, a little. While the show was undeniably epic and there were a couple of highlights (watching Joey Santiago play his guitar while holding it upside down was pretty memorable, and hearing "Where Is My Mind?" live will give you chills, no matter how many times you've seen the band), at times it felt a little uninspired. Watching a band do a speed run through their greatest hits with no commentary and almost no new material (the band has recorded only a handful of new songs in the last decade) makes you realize just how much we value spontaneity and personality in live performances.