One of the most striking things about the first night of the Pixies two night stint at Austin Music Hall was how young the crowd was. The majority of people lined up to see the band play Doolittle in its entirety were either around the same age as that record or not even old enough to buy a drink. Although this would be enough to make anyone who actually remembers buying the album when it came out feel old, it demonstrates how well the album has aged and that it has been embraced by a new generation of fans. The same can be said about the Pixies, as they turned in a performance that maintained every bit of Doolittle‘s vitality and power while demonstrating that they have lost none of their skills as musicians.
Contemporary British noise-makers Fuck Buttons were an interesting selection for the opening slot. Without vocals, guitars, or even a standard drum set, the duo of Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have almost nothing in common with the indie rock legends. Their main duties involve twidling knobs and producing sounds loud enough to damage your hearing. However, they are very good at what they do and they were able to get the younger people in the crowd moving to their pulsating beats and droning synths. While it was nothing groundbreaking or particularly memorable, they still managed to get the audience’s blood flowing. Whether that was for better or worse would depend on the concertgoer.
After receiving a thunderous applause when they took the stage, the Pixies immediately kicked off their set with “Dance the Manta Ray”, a B-side to Doolittle. A few songs later, the bass line of album opener “Debaser” sent the crowd into a forty-five minute sing-along frenzy. Of all the band’s albums, Doolittle was the right choice to be played in full. It contains many of the band’s most beloved tracks, and was one of the most influential albums of its time, contributing to what would define alternative and independent music for years to come. Songs like “Wave of Mutilation”, “Here Comes Your Man”, and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” were met with rapturous amounts of fanfare, and even the deeper cuts like “La La Love You” and “No. 13 Baby” got the crowd moving and mouthing every word.
It was clear from the first note that the band was out to impress. Frank Black effortlessly threw his voice all over the place the way he did all those years ago, and his and Joey Santiago’s guitar work still carried the same sort of vigor and bite that were a central force to the group’s unique and forward-thinking sound. Meanwhile, bassist Kim Deal and drummer David Lovering provided the songs with their rhythmic force and, in Deal’s case, many of the song’s hooks. The band were loose, playful, and having fun onstage, something that is vital for a group as aged and road tested as The Pixies. Almost every nook and cranny from the album was replicated to perfection, and the audience reciprocated with their enthusiasm.
Once they completed a first encore that continued the B-Sides trajectory from earlier, the band reemerged on the stage with Kim Deal proclaiming “We’re gonna do a Neil Young cover.” The band immediately segued into “Winterlong”, a song they’ve kept in their live repertoire for some time. They finished off their set with two of their best non-Doolittle tracks, “Where Is My Mind?” and “Gigantic”, before exiting the stage to rest up for the next night’s performance. While they may not have released any new material in almost 20 years, the Pixies are a band content with reliving their past glories. If it means that they’re able to play the songs that fans remember growing up to with the same amount of skill and enthusiasm, that’s all that anyone should ever ask of them.