The Pixies, Surfer Blood
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
Despite a few minor mistakes and lulls, the Pixies deserved the roaring ovation they received for their main set at the Performance Arts Center on Friday night. Singer/guitarist Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black or Charles Thompson), lead guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist/singer Kim Deal, and drummer David Lovering still embrace and understand the idea of doing a great show for their fans.
The fact that the band brought its ongoing, world-wide, multimedia Doolittle Tour to Charleston at all was enough to delight local die-hards. Presenting the 15-song album in sequential order with individual short films and video footage to accompany each track was a terrific idea. They pulled it off like pros.
The Doolittle Tour began in 2009 as celebration of the 20th anniversary of their critically acclaimed 1989 album Doolittle (4AD), the Pixies second full-length disc. This season's leg of is a "lost cities" tour, hitting small cities throughout the U.S.
Florida rock quartet Surfer Blood warmed things up with a guitar-driven opening set of originals from the new Tarot Classic and last year's Astro Coast. The band's jangly, choppy sound was appropriate for a Pixies-minded audience. The bass guitar was nearly inaudible in the mix, but the guitars were nice of fuzzy. Aside from the occasional nervous pacing by frontman John Paul Pitts, the guys were a fairly stiff on stage ("shoegazers," as the Brits would say). City Paper contributor Chris Parker compared the band's quirky style and nasally singing to Dinosaur Jr. and the Flaming Lips. I detected a bit of the Feelies and the Cure in the textured dual-guitar work (and delay pedal effects) and droning drum beats, too.
The Pixies introduced their Doolittle set with a screening of the 1929 silent surrealist short film Un Chien Andalou, which left a few fans bit grossed out and rattled. The quartet casually strolled out for the first number, grinning as fans cheered loudly. Dimly lit, they opened with four obscure B-sides from the Doolittle sessions, including "Dancing The Manta Ray," a yelpy tunes with a slowed-down surf-beat, and the plodding "Bailey's Walk." The mix was loud, balanced, and clear. Thompson's voice sounded as strong and shouty as ever. Deal spoke freely on the mic, expressing genuine gratitude and appreciation to the fans.
The audience went mad as the stage lights brightened and Deal plucked the opening notes of album kick-off song "Debaser." Things got even more lively as they blasted through "Tame," one of the most belligerent tracks on the record. All four musicians seemed locked in by song number three.
The watery video paired well with "Wave of Mutilation." The dripping images of spilled and splattered paint complemented the choruses of "I Bleed." Distorted photos and zooms of monkeys and the original Doolittle album cover art decorated the screen during the anthemic "Monkey Gone To Heaven." A cartoonish clip of a soon-to-be-hanged man with a burlap sack on his head accompanied "Mr. Grieves."
Santiago's tasteful and occasionally dissonant riffs, solos, and embellishments accented every song.
The lightning-fast "Crackity Jones" inspired a bit of pogo dancing in the crowd. Deal asked Lovering to dedicate the goofy pop novelty "La La Love You," which he flubbed amusingly with the painful line, "This one goes out to the lovely ladies of Charlottesville." Frank Black smacked his forehead in embarrassment while Lovering kicked into the song's drumbeat intro. Thompson eventually leaned over the drum kit to correct the poor drummer, who realized his mistake and blurted into his vocal mic, "Oh, fuck. I mean Charleston!" It was one of only a detectable few slip-ups of the set.
Coupled with the kaleidoscope light show, the lengthy, repetitive chord progressions of the outro of "No. 13 Baby" might have been the most mesmerizing moments of the Doolittle set. The intense and concise "Gouge Away" closed with a bang. All four bandmates waved and shook hands with fans in the front rows to thunderous applause.
In the first encore, the band glided through an "acoustic" rendition of "Wave of Mutilation," which became a full-on singalong by the second chorus. Deal sang her eerily on "Into the White" while an enormous cloud of dry-ice smoke formed over the stage and rolled over the crowd.
Highlights in the second encore included two fan faves from the band's first full-length, Surfer Rosa. Fans sang along in falsetto with Deal on "Where is My Mind?" Just about everyone in the hall shouted the closing line of "A big, big love!" on concert-closer "Gigantic" — a perfect conclusion to an intense, solid show.