By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Nov 10, 2004 at 5:23 AM Photography: Eron Laber

{image1} It may have been just one stop on a reunion tour, but the Pixies sounded far from stale during the nearly sold-out show Tuesday night at The Milwaukee Theatre.

The quintessential Boston surf punk rock band of the late '80s and early '90s glided through its 90-minute set effortlessly, banging out its greatest hits with confidence, power and enthusiasm. In many ways, it felt like they never took a break after their 1991 swan song, "Trompe Le Monde."

Maybe it was the emotion behind the screaming front man Frank Black. Or maybe it was energy coming from the omnipresent grin of bassist Kim Deal, but nothing the Pixies played sounded dated -- and every song they belted out came from the good old days. As they jammed through most, if not all, of their best-known album, "Doolittle," I could picture myself as a 15-year-old playing Tetris in my bedroom blasting the CD. But somehow the music sounded contemporary and engaging, even if it was popular more than a decade ago.

It's obvious that bands don't make music like the Pixies anymore, save for a few groups like The Dandy Warhols, but maybe they should.

The Pixies' sound was undeniably unique. When Deal and Black harmonized, they almost sounded like one voice. But when Black sang alone, he was at his best screaming at the top of his lungs. And no band has ever done more with bending notes, as guitarist Joey Santiago truly made his instrument sing.


The Pixies gave the audience what it wanted, avoiding new material or playing songs that no one had heard. The crowd rocked along from the first tune, "Debaser." The Pixies kept the energy high -- and really loud -- with songs off of all of their albums, including tunes like "Planet of Sound," "Gigantic," "Velouria," "Bossanova," "Subbacultcha" and "Where Is My Mind?"

But my favorite songs came from "Doolittle," including "Monkey Gone To Heaven," "Here Comes Your Man," "Mr. Grieves" and more. They even played "Wave of Mutilation" twice -- first the fast version, then the slow version during the encore.

True, the three men in the Pixies were older and balder (Deal still looked pretty good) than they were in their heyday. But young bands could've taken a lesson from Tuesday's show: A group like the Pixies doesn't come around every day, and even almost 15 years apart can't dull the shine of their big sound. Who knows if Milwaukee will have an opportunity to see this band together again in. But at least for one night, a trailblazing band of a decade now gone reminded us all just how much they contributed to today's alternative rock scene.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.