I was skeptical about The Pixies. I always saw them as a very esoteric band, not charting much, not very accessible, a little difficult to understand. But, I knew some of their music. I liked some of their music. Given the opportunity, absolutely, I’d love to go see them play. I did just that on Tuesday night at the Golden One Center.
The Pixies have had a tumultuous relationship with music, stardom, and each other. They called it quits in 1994, after charting hits like “Where is my Mind”, released in 1988, which you may remember from the closing scene of Fight Club, released in 1999. They reformed after 11 years in 2005.
You may remember “Monkey Gone to Heaven” which was the Melody Maker single of the year in 1989 and in the Rolling Stone top 5 of 1989.
You may remember “Debaser” or “Gigantic” or “Velouria” (which Weezer covered on a Pixies tribute album).
The thing is, unless you’re a huge Pixies fan, you want them to play the hits. Debaser, Velouria and their biggest hit, Monkey Gone to Heaven, didn’t get played Tuesday night at the Golden One Center.
Frank Black is obviously welcome to play the music he wants people to hear, but I’ve always had a problem with bands who play shows for people who pay to hear and experience live versions of their favorite songs, the hits and the classics, and yet they just don’t. It’s awkward. I would think that it creates an awkward relationship between a band and it’s fans.
But that’s just me. I could be WAY off. Black could be playing the deep cuts that the biggest of the big Pixies fans want to hear.
Don’t get me wrong, The Pixies sounded great. Very tight, very authentic and true to their often noted “loud-quiet-loud” sound. An 90’s alternative homage to 60’s surf music with a splash of border radio.
“Cactus” opened the 21 song set, with “Where is My Mind” and “Here Comes Your Man” coming within the first 9 songs. “Gigantic” featuring Kim Deal replacement bass player and vocalist Paz Lenchantin was the closer.
Between the 10th song and the 21st song, if you’re not a huge Pixies fan, or you’re not a music fan in general, the set went flat.
Then Weezer showed up and set the house afire.
Rivers Cuomo and company pre-opened by coming to the photographers pit below the stage to do a barbershop quartet rendition of “Beverly Hills” which was very well done. Straw hats and stripey jackets and all.
In contrast to The Pixies, Weezer played all of their hits, and some hits from other bands as well. Faithful to their recent release, “The Teal Album”, they played Tears for Fears. They Played Black Sabbath. They played The Turtles. They played Green Day. They Played Toto. They played Jane’s Addiction. They played TLC. They even played The Pixies.
The band opened with “Buddy Holly”, the set dressed as Arnold’s Drive In from Happy Days and the Buddy Holly video. It wasn’t long until streamers were launched into the crowd and the party was underway.
How do you pick out highlights in a setlist full of hit songs? Was it “Island in the Sun”? Maybe it was Undone – The Sweater Song”, or maybe it was the crowd pleasing cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” which came early in the set and pushed the knob closer to 11.
“Can’t Knock The Hustle” came packaged with a massive disco ball, bathing all of G1C in swirling lights. The cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” saw Rivers Cuomo sailing around the Golden One sea in a motorized boat, where he stopped at the back of the arena and played an acoustic version of The Turtle’s “Happy Together” mixed with a splash of Green Day’s “Longview”.
The set wasn’t bereft of Weezer music. The full version of “Beverly Hills”, “Pork and Beans” and “Troublemaker” followed, and they closed with “Hash Pipe” which came with massive fireballs blasted from the stage a la Rammstein.
We can’t forget to mention their cover of Toto’s “Africa”, which they took to number one on the Billboard alternative chart last year, a full 35 years after it first charted.
The difference between The Pixies and Weezer is stark. It may be a marriage of convenience, touring together. However, the estimated 9,000 in attendance at Golden One Center (which seats 19,000 for concerts) was telling. While the floor and the main bowl were largely filled, the sides of the upper deck were screened and the concourse was sparsely filled.
Pixies fans probably loved their set of album cuts. Everybody loved Weezer. How can you not?