Almost 20 years after the Pixies opened U2's Zoo TV tour at the Charlotte Coliseum (in March of 1992), the influential alt-rock band, which reformed in 2004, made its return. The band is winding down the 20th anniversary tour for its popular "Doolittle" album; the tour ends in South America next month.
The crowd, made up of a who's who of area musicians, scenesters and social media types, ranged from early twenty-somethings who were still toddling when "Doolittle" was released to those who were listening to it while decorating their college dorms.
The original line-up of Black Francis, Kim Deal, David Lovering and Joey Santiago eased into a set that revisited B-sides from the "Doolittle" era – "Dancing the Manta Ray," "Weird at My School," "Bailey's Walk" and "Manta Ray." The crowd erupted as the band launched into "Debaser," that album's lead track. They followed that by playing the rest of the album in order. Highlights included a version of "I Bleed" that oozed sexuality and crowd-pleasing singles "Here Comes Your Man" and "Monkey Gone to Heaven."
Now in their 40s, the Pixies haven't lost the elements that made the band's combination so memorable and influential. Deal's soft backing vocals haven't hardened. Francis' throaty scream remained a threat on songs like "Crackity Jones" and "Tame." Santiago's surf guitar, which rose up like a striking rattlesnake alternating with Deal and Francis' fractured harmonies on "Silver," remained a signature as Lovering kept a busy backbeat. The latter showed his deep vocal prowess briefly during "La La Love You." Those less predictable moments were the night's best.
Francis waved goodbye during the intro to "Gouge Away," but with each song clocking in at less than four minutes, it all seemed to go by too fast. The band returned to revisit "Wave of Mutilation," this time with the UK Surf version that appeared on the "Pump Up the Volume" soundtrack. Kim Deal took over lead vocals on "Into the White" but was almost lost in the billowing ocean of smoke from the smoke machine, which only seemed to cloud her side of the stage.
After a brief break, the house lights went up and the group returned for a second, less formal encore. Moving on from "Doolittle" to the first track of its follow-up "Bossanova," the group launched into the space western instrumental "Cecilia Ann" and followed it with the fun "Dig For Fire."
"Bone Machine," "Gigantic" (another Deal-led crowd pleaser) and "Where is My Mind," a hit in its second life, concluded the set. The informal finale, which moved away from the visually stimulating and spot-on return to "Doolittle," left the audience with a sense of spontaneity. Many exiting the venue described it simply as "great."