The alt-rock legends
bring Doolittle to Oakland’s
By David Downs
Legendary alternative rock band Pixies howled the ferocious
language of Doolittle to thousands of rabid, animalistic fans at a rare,
sold-out engagement in Oakland’s
$92 million, restored 1930s picture palace, the Fox Theater Sunday night.
Only the band’s second U.S. tour date in four years, lead
singer Black Francis, bassist Kim Deal, drummer David Lovering and guitarist
Joey Santiago devoured a dream-come-true setlist including the entirety of Doolittle (“Monkey Gone To Heaven”, “Here Comes Your Man”, “Hey”, “Tame”, and
“Debaser”), with two encores including “Gigantic”, “Caribou”, and Fight Club anthem “Where Is My Mind?”
Twenty years into the release of the influential record, and
Doolittle has become the Rosetta Stone to alternative music – everything
important, from Nirvana to Modest Mouse to Built To Spill can be decoded
through Pixies and Sunday night the band proved that three chords and two
minutes of their time was often enough to encompass the entire artistic career
of other bands. The now-forty-something icons executed Doolittle commendably, if not flawlessly, changing up some choruses and attacks, like
Black Francis’ slow, whispering, Gollum-esque version of “Wave of Mutilation”.
Dressed in black, the rotund juggernaut Francis kept the
rock talk near zero Sunday night, leaving the banter to the adorably ebullient
Kim Deal. “Thanks for inviting us to this beautiful fucking place,” Deal
gushed. She occasionally narrated the set list, and joked with the crowd,
“Anybody coming tomorrow? We’re playing the same songs,” referring to their
three-night run at the Fox.
and Lovering focused on the music amid a riveting production that used copious
amounts of fog, a video projector of gigantic proportions, and a dynamic, 3-D,
lighted sculpture that would dance above Pixies’ heads.
The band seemed to embrace the sing-along aspect of a
re-union tour to perform Doolittle, feeding the crowd lyrics on the
video screen, and further amplifying that strange feeling when you’re at a show
and everyone is singing every word of every song. It was a rapturous, teenage
fantasy occasion for most in the crowd, darkly underlined by the brooding,
anxious themes in the music.
The show opened with a weird, dark surreal piece of film –
1929 silent short Un chien andalou – that ends with a couple sinking
into the sand and it’s important to remember that the working title for Doolittle was Whore. The end of the ’80s featured the withdrawal of Soviet Forces
from Afghanistan after a
disastrous nine-year campaign, the Pan Am bombings, the massacre at Tiananmen Square, and Reagan followed by George H.W.
Bush. Doolittle is more than just a primer for the ’90s, it was a
harbinger, conveying the overweening sense of dread and comedy that would mark
the century’s turn, skid, and ultimate slide off the highway – tree branches
whipping the windshield as we rolled off into the abyss. It was all there on
vinyl in 1989, if you knew how to listen.
“I can’t believe this album came out 20 years ago” quipped
TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone, who opened with solo act Rain Machine. “Pixies
saved me in high school.”
The Pixies have a free EP of live music they are giving away
on the Internet at their website and are currently selling Deluxe and Limited
Editions of box set Minotaur. The Deluxe is $150. The Limited Edition is
$500, weighs 25 pounds, and is limited to 3,000, individually numbered units,
hand-signed by every member of Pixies and Vaughan Oliver. Visit www.ainr.com to buy.
[Photo Credit: Chris Glass]