Concert Reviews

Pixies at Fillmore Auditorium, 2/13/14

PIXIES at FILLMORE AUDITORIUM | 2/13/14 Like the Ramones, the Pixies took stage and had little in the way of breaks between songs. There was no banter, no awkward joking and no meandering dialogue while anyone tuned or tried to read a set list. The only interruptions came when the band teased a bit of "Wave of Mutilation" before dropping off into the ferocious "Something Against You." And then later, when there was a flub in the beginning of "Here Comes Your Man," the outfit had a quick laugh and then quickly figuring out where things broke down and started again.

See also: Joey Santiago of the Pixies: "We're all a bunch of screwballs without leather jackets and spandex"

Otherwise the group played back to back songs, with one segueing perfectly and seamlessly into the next. And you didn't miss the chit chat, as every single song was performed with a nervy power with the sound expertly dialed in. The vocals weren't just effective, but they were discernible enough for the words to make their full impact.

The set got going with "Bone Machine," and from that alone, it seemed as though many of these songs got a more visceral treatment than on the original recordings. Charles Thompson has clearly learned to channel his vocal power better over the years to truly project a powerful sound. On "Crackity Jones," it sounded like there were three or four vocalists, as Thompson's specific phrases varied so wildly in technique and tone and dynamics.

The set was broken up and sequenced quite well. It wasn't weighted with all the newer songs in the beginning or clustered in the middle. Somewhere around midset, the energy smoothed out some, the pace seemed to slow, but this was probably just so the band didn't burn itself out by hitting the songs hard and fast throughout. Perhaps they were saving their energy for going out on some of the band's most intense and emotionally-charged material.

Of course, David Lovering took the lead vocal on "La La Love You" and sounded like some crooner of old. Though Pixies often cover "In Heaven" (aka The Lady in the Radiator Song) live, it came as a pleasant surprise mid-set. "Wave of Mutilation" was the more dream-like, slower version (on recordings, it's referred to as the "UK Surf" version). It made the more mellow -- welll, as mellow as this band could ever really get -- part of the set sparkle a little.

Things started to kick back into gear after "Cactus" with a fiery rendition of "Blue Eyed Hexe." For "Monkey Gone To Heaven," Paz Lenchantin proved her ability to sing and harmonize as she executed the band's iconic bass lines. "Head On," the Jesus and Mary Chain song, came off like Pixies decided to put a lot more energy into the performance than it put in to the recorded version on Trompe Le Monde. The set ended with a surprise, an impassioned take on the fractured and demented "Planet of Sound," which ended with an abrupt silence before the band waved and left the stage.

The band didn't make us wait long before it came back on and kicked off the encore with one of the newer songs, the moody "Greens and Blues." Then "Where Is My Mind?" got more than half the crowd singing along. But it was the concluding number, "Vamos," where Pixies cut loose a little more.

In the chaotic, noisy part of the song, Joey Santiago held his guitar high so that the feedback drifted where it would, and he then held his gold Les Paul with the body pointed at the ceiling while he sculpted the feedback a little. At one point, he hit his head against the back of the guitar to elicit more sound from the guitar for several moments before the song went back to form and flamed out. Without any words to the audience, the band came forward and bowed and waved good night. Like Santiago said in a recent interview, the band let the music speak for itself.

Best Coast opened the show and seemed like a perfect opening act for Pixies. Bethany Cosentino has never seemed to lack for confidence performing in this band, and this night was no exception, even when she admitted to being nervous because the band was opening for Pixies on the current leg of the tour. If she was indeed nervous, you couldn't tell; Cosentino's vocals were even more assured than on earlier tours, and her singing has become more expressive and evocative.

The newer songs showed a great deal of growth in the band's songwriting out of the summery pop that characterized its earlier material. The act played some of its best and most popular early songs in "Crazy For You," "Boy Friend," "Our Deal" and "When I'm With You." The title track to 2013's Fade Away was especially strong and exemplified where this band has been headed over the last four years. It proved to be the standout song of a set wherein the opening band didn't play like the junior partner on the bill but as the excellent modern band that it is.


Pixies Fillmore Auditorium - 2/13/14 Denver, CO

01. Bone Machine 02. Something Against You [after tease of Wave of Mutilation] 03. U-Mass 04. Broken Face 05. Crackity Jones 06. Hey 07. Motorway to Roswell 08. Indie Cindy 09. Nimrod's Son 10. "Silver Snail" 11. Break My Body 12. Brick is Red 13. Here Comes Your Man 14. La La Love You 15. Mr. Grieves 16. In Heaven [Peter Ivers cover] 17. Andro Queen 18. Wave of Mutilation [slow version] 19. Bagboy 20. Caribou 21. Magdalena 22. Cactus 23. Blue Eyed Hexe 24. Monkey Gone To Heaven 25. Gouge Away 26. What Goes Boom 27. The Sad Punk 28. Isla de Encanta 29. Head On [Jesus and Mary Chain cover] 30. Debaser 31. Tame 32. Planet of Sound


33. Greens and Blues 34. Where Is My Mind? 35. Vamos


Personal Bias:I picked up Doolittle in 1989 under the impression it was a heavy metal album. I didn't fully get it. I got bored with metal a year later, though, and Doolittle became a bit of a life changer. I've been a big fan of Pixies since. Random Detail: Ran into Heath March of Quantum Creep, Doug Mioducki formerly of Felt Pilotes and currently of CP-208 and Heather Oviatt-Mioducki formerly of The North Americans at the show. By the Way: This was a far better show in every single way from the time I saw Pixes in 2004.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.