Return of the Sci-Fi Surf

The Pixies
Arrow Hall
November 24, 2004
The unlikeliest reunion in indie rock wank-dom finally touched down in Toronto after months of hearsay and third-party accountsóThe Pixies were back in the GTA. It's been 12 years since U2 closed for The Pixies at Maple Leaf Gardens and in spite of the 10 month lapse between the ticket on-sale date and the now, these mothers of mischievous made it all seem worth while with a near-seamless performance that managed to grease the walls of a rather staid Arrow Hall.

The fact that the band has been elevated to near-Zionist levels since their 1993 demise is made all the more remarkable by the fact that appearance wise, the band is so utterlyÖ "fireplace". Yet as Kim Deal arched skyward and laid out the opening refrains of "In Heaven", the line between leader and follower because frightfully obvious. As the band lulled through a gutted version of "Wave of Mutilation" and an equally softened 'Where is my Mind?", you got the sense that Frank Black and friends were merely pawing at the crowd. When he traded in his acoustic guitar, the assumption was confirmed.

Choosing "Blown Away" from 1990's Bossanova was a bit of an odd flint but no matter; the next 60 plus minutes burned with a level of kineticism and weirdness that few bands past or present could ever approximate. Paeans of pain such as "Broken Face", "Debaser", "Dead" and "I Bleed" were taken to fearfully extremes, as Black's contorted facial expressions confirmed. Guitarist Joey Santiago looked on, positively non-plussed through out yet only adding to the terror beneath the guise of an arduously distorted guitar.

"Caribou" offered momentary repriseóas much as a song about a hoofed mammal can, I suppose. But as Black careened, his blank stare was the proverbial burden of proof. Read what you will into the supposedly callow disintegration of the band's first go-round but the fact remains, these songs took on a life of their own long before this reunion cemented itself.

"Monkey Gone to Heaven" hit as did "Here Comes Your Man", "Gouge Away" and a second run-through of "Wave of Mutilation", this time spiked to the shoetops with a chiseled riff born of fingernail and plus-level wattage. Kim Deal closed the set with a spirited take of Surfer Rosa-era chestnut "Gigantic" and as the band playfully wished each other good night, the song ground down and the masses lit up.

Extra credit to The Pixies for damming the lame-o trad curtain call in lieu of a saunter around stage before getting back at it. Drummer Dave Lovering took over vocal duties first for "La La Love You", the only song in the lectern that features vocal contributions from all four members. And then the crescendo: that black-eyed Hispanic trollop named "Vamos". Packed with dented memories from Black's time in Puerto Rico, the song is a total question mark lyric wise but sure does pack a wallop when unleashed on a crowd. Black sat back as Santiago toyed with a feedback display worthy of Glenn Branca as Lovering was only too happy to provide an errant drumstick as the butane.

All told, a performance of epic proportions and definitely the mental manure from which inspirations grow. A lager-drenched UK rock critic once said "Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle The Pixies"óif this is true, expect a flood plain of turmoil to blanket Toronto in the coming weeks.

Writer: Cameron Gordon

Photo:Ryan Jackson

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