At the Pixies' Hollywood Palladium show on Wednesday night, the sold-out crowd of 4,000 seemed caught between genuflecting respectfully and just going nuts. Kicking off a 21-date U.S. tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their thorny masterwork Doolittle, the alt-rock icons performed the album start-to-finish in the form of an edgy history lesson, with the students devotedly trying to keep up.
Doolittle, along with the rest of the band's legend, has only grown in stature over two decades, its sonic adventurousness and dark, abrasive personality seeping into the bloodlines of countless rockers to follow. But on this night, frontman Black Francis, bassist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago, and drummer David Lovering were genially focused and the pace measured.
The album's 15 tracks, after all, clock in at just 38 minutes-and even with its light show, video screen, and smoke machines, the performance didn't attempt to match the explosiveness of the Pixies' historic 2004 reunion shows.
The one-hour-and-35-minute excursion (the first of three nights at the Palladium) had a somewhat clinical feel, though a healthy bit of moshing and crowd-surfing did break out, inspired mostly by Santiago's peripatetic guitar lines and the gritty bottom provided by Lovering and Deal.
The Pixies' appearance was preceded by a projection of the surrealist short film Un Chien Andalou, a 1929 collaboration between director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dali. It was Francis' inspiration for Doolittle's opening track "Debaser," but the quartet's musical eyeball-slicing was delayed as the show began with four lesser-known tracks.
"Do you know what the B-sides are?" bassist Deal asked the crowd, smiling. "I had to look them up."
Having dispatched those discordant appetizers, the Pixies got stronger and Francis' yowl seemed to age in reverse. "Debaser," "Tame," and "I Bleed" incrementally gained in vigor, and the foursome hit its collective stride with "Here Comes Your Man," backed by a video that mocked the song's original music video-which itself playfully tweaked the more glamorizing music videos of the time.
Somewhere around a very spry "Monkey Gone to Heaven," Deal asked jokingly, "Is this still side one?"
The diehards knew, though they didn't get the slightest acknowledgement from Francis, until he waved after "Silver," a song the Pixies had never played live until this tour.
The slower, surfy version of fan favorite "Wave of Mutilation" highlighted the first encore before the Pixies returned with non-Doolittle fare "Isla de Encanta" and "Gigantic." Closer "Where Is My Mind?" left a particularly celebratory note in the air-and had more than one giddy fan asking if anybody had a ticket hook-up for the second night.
Los Angeles noise-punk heroes No Age were a worthy opening act-there's no small amount of Pixies DNA in theirmusic's makeup. "How awesome is it the Pixies are gonna play?" shouted he duo's drummer Dean Spunt. "I feel like, what the fuck am I doing up here?"
Dancing the Manta Ray
Weird at My School
Wave of Mutilation
Here Comes Your Man
Monkey Gone to Heaven
La La Love You
No. 13 Baby
There Goes My Gun
Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
Into the White
Isla de Encanta
Where Is My Mind?