I found religion in an airport hanger. It was short and round, bald and screaming. It was better than I could have rightfully expected, and it left me humbled.
Last night, at the god-awful Arrow Hall in Mississauga, The Pixies snatched the stage from the boring clutches of The Datsuns to pummel us into a fearful reverence. I was expecting good. I was hoping for very good. I came away amazed. Not having been a fan of the Pixies until a few years ago (I started university about a year after they broke up, and my home town was far too backwater to have heard of them), I missed out on the mystique that surrounded them 10-15 years ago. But, as would happen with other bands, my friend M2 exposed me to music that I should already know (see also: The Rheostatics) and I came to love The Pixies as well. So when I heard they were reforming for real, I jumped on tickets back in the spring.
Many months later, 7 of us made the long and shitty trek through bad weather and ugly industrial parks to The International Centre, home to Arrow Hall and many giant parking lots. Myself, Nellie, Stanzi, Lunch, M2, H2 (although I don’t know if she goes by that anymore…) and some guy I didn’t know who bore a striking resemblance to Matthew McConaughey and, as I’d later learn, knew the words to every Pixies song ever. We got about halfway up the hanger (seriously…this building was obviously once an airport hanger…there were 9,000 of us on the concrete floor) and staked out a spot. Nellie, being 5-foot-0, couldn’t see shit, but that’s typical at concerts. She always toughs it out anyway, just to make me happy. This is what makes her a good wife. To reciprocate, I reach the items on the high shelves.
Right, the concert. So they come out and proceed to sucker punch us. They get us all nice and grooved out by playing “Heaven” and slipping into the UK Surf version of “Wave Of Mutilation”, then charging into “Where Is My Mind?”. By this point I was midly freaked out by how good they sounded and that, yes, that was the fucking Pixies up there. Then they get us a little more excited by playing things like “Nimrod’s Son” and “Here Comes Your Man”…and then came the ass-kicking. “Planet Of Sound” was pushed through a wall of reverb until Frank Black sounded like a fat little dragon, roaring his tales of alien rock. This being one of my favourite Pixies songs, I was happy. Bands don’t always play my favourite songs, so I was happy that they did this one with such zeal as to blister my ears. It was just the beginning.
The true test of a live show is whether they can take songs that you normally don’t care about and make you love them. They proceeded to do just this with “Bone Machine” and “Crackity Jones”, bookending “I Bleed” which I already love (and again, as it’s one of my favourites, didn’t expect). They played “Broken Face” and “Isla de Encanta” in the time that it took me (and my voice) to recover from the ‘…then God is 7…then God is 7…’ section of “Monkey Gone To Heaven”. I turned to M2 and said, ‘if they just play “Caribou” and “Velouria”, I can leave and be happy’. They then played “Caribou” and “Velouria”. I considered leaving for about 3 seconds ’cause it would be funny, but then realized that it would mostly just be stupid.
Everything else was just gravy; “No. 13 Baby”, “Gouge Away”, “Debaser” and the real version of “Wave Of Mutilation” were the highlights. Somewhere around this point I remarked to M2 how amazing it was that Frank Black’s voice could stand up to all the screaming…and then they played “Tame”, during which he just screamed his freaking ass off. Two more songs and they finished up the set. Rather than walking off stage and then coming back out 30 seconds later for an encore, they just stayed onstage and thanked us for our applause, then played “La La Love You” (which is still stuck in my head) and “Vamos”, which I thought went on a bit too long with the guitar noise, as cool as it was. They pounded through and finished up quickly, accepting our applause and disappearing into the fake trees behind them. That was my only, only complaint…that the encore was a bit of an anticlimax, but the main set was so good that they could’ve quietly discussed kitchen cleaners for an encore and I wouldn’t have cared.
Their playing? Tight. Very tight. The sound? Better than it should’ve been, considering you could build a refugee camp in there. The mystique? Back. Based on what I saw last night, The Pixies would have to be considered one of the very best bands to see live in the world right now, even if you overlook the legend and importance of the music. Let’s put it this way: if the venue were downtown instead of way the fuck out by the airport, I’d gladly drop another $43 to see them again tonight.
“This ain’t no rock and roll town
This ain’t no fuckin’ around”
Planet Of Sound
The setlist (courtesy of Chromewaves):
- In Heaven
- Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf version)
- Where Is My Mind
- Blown Away
- Nimrod’s Son
- Here Comes Your Man
- Ed Is Dead
- Planet Of Sound
- Bone Machine
- I Bleed
- Crackity Jones
- Monkey Gone To Heaven
- Broken Face
- Isla de Encanta
- No. 13 Baby
- Mr. Grieves
- Gouge Away
- Wave Of Mutilation
- La La Love You