Concert Reviews

Pixies at Fillmore Auditorium, 2/13/14

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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.

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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.