The Retrospective

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A night of nostalgia and low-top chucks with The Pixies

December 2nd, 2009 by

the pixies at hammerstein ballroomphoto credit Barry Yanowitz

When a friend offered me a ticket to the Pixies sold out show at Hammerstein Ballroom last Tuesday, I couldn’t resist. Even though I’m the most casual of Pixies fans, being able to identify two, maybe three songs at the most, I figured seeing them perform their 1989 masterpiece Doolittle in its entirety would be the perfect introduction. I couldn’t have been more right.

the pixies at hammerstein ballroomphoto credit Barry Yanowitz

We got there early enough to see most of Jay Reatard’s opening set, which was predictably loud and raucous with a distinct southern ’70s rock vibe. After noting his eerie vocal resemblance to Judas Priest’s Rob Halford and his follicle imitation of Cousin It, I started checking out the crowd pushing their way towards the $5 mystery beer special (while supplies lasted). Considering that I was only eight when Doolittle came out, it wasn’t too surprising to see a good portion of the mostly older, mostly male crowd wearing the quintessential aging alterna-Dad outfit: suit, graphic tee and black low top Chucks. The nostalgia factor was going to be high tonight. A long, atonal wall of guitar drone announced the arrival of Black, Joey, Kim and David. With the stage decked out with multiple video monitors and topped by what looked like paper lanterns strung together, the band wasted no time on introductions.

the pixies at hammerstein ballroomphoto credit Barry Yanowitz

The opening salvo of four b-sides (“Dancing the Manta Ray,'” “Weird at my School,’ “Bailey’s Walk,” and “Manta Ray”) sounded crisp and clean and got the crowd swaying in preparation for what was to come next. Not one person around me could contain their joy at the shout out loud enticement of “Debaser,’” with Kim’s crystal clear backing vocal floating on top of the fray. Through the moody “Wave of Mutiliation” and “Here Comes Your Man” up to “There Goes My Gun” and “Silver,” Frank offered little in the way of stage banter while Kim cracked jokes about being “halfway through side one.” For a band like the Pixies, one encore isn’t enough. The rapt crowd ate up “Slow Wave of Mutilation” and a poignant version of “Into the White,” and whistled, clapped and screamed until the lights dimmed again, this time for a longer set that included classics like “Where is My Mind” and “Gigantic.” Only then did the crowd file out onto the Manhattan sidewalks, toting their limited edition Pixies USB wristbands and sixty-dollar sweatshirts as mementos of night long in the making.

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