When you hear that a band is coming to town to perform all its songs from one, specific album, you might think, "Meh. Boring. I'll save the $35 and listen to the CD I've listened to a couple thousand times." But when that band is the Pixies, the album is "Doolittle" and the set list exactly mirrors the album, you might think, "That show would be amazing." And you'd be right.
The Pixies played a packed show at the Eagles Ballroom Saturday night that, with two encores, gave serious fans their fill.
The first track on Doolittle is "Debaser," which references the silent, surrealist short film "Un Chien Andalou," produced in France by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. So, it's only fitting that the film rolled on a giant screen in the minutes before the band took to the stage.
Before the live rendition of "Doolittle" began in earnest, the Pixies treated the audience to some B-sides, including "Dance the Manta Ray, "Weird at my School," "Bailey's Walk" and "Manta Ray." Bassist Kim Deal joked that some of the B-sides are so obscure that the band had to practice them before rolling them out for this tour.
The show's staging felt not unlike the Pixies themselves: minimalist yet theatrical, gritty yet seasoned. Four enormous white spheres resembling Japanese paper-lanterns hung above the four band members and took on lighting to fit each song's vibe. As advertised, the set list stayed true to the 1989 album:
Wave of Mutilation
Here Comes Your Man
Monkey Gone to Heaven
La La Love You
No. 13 Baby
There Goes My Gun
After "I Bleed," Deal noted that the show was "about halfway through the first side," as the video screen behind the band displayed the vinyl version of the album on a turntable. Later, she pointed out that "Dead" marked "the last song of the first side." (This reviewer cannot verify as she had the album on cassette, which melted in her car in 1990.)
Around that time in the show, Deal also endeared herself to Milwaukeeans by proclaiming, "You have a pretty city."
The published set list indicated the Pixies would serve-up the slow version of "Wave of Mutilation" and "Into the White" as encores. That they did, and, in a further departure from Doolittle, the Pixies gifted the audience with about half-dozen more songs, including "Caribou," "Bone Machine" and "Where is my Mind?" The true encore came in the way of crowd-favorite and 1988 single "Gigantic."
But perhaps Black Francis (aka Charles Thompson, aka Frank Black) has grown weary of the limelight. Lead guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering split the tour's press duties, serving as the only interview subjects offered up by the band's publicist. And Deal wrapped up her role as the de facto emcee of the show with two final quips as the guitar riffs of Gigantic bounced around the Eagles Ballroom.
"Break it down," she said with a laugh to Santiago. "It took us 22 years, but we finally learned how to break it down."
Velia Tarnoff counts among the loves of her life her daughter, her husband, her friends, writing, developing theories, dancing, live music, Southern California, black coffee and red wine. She's happiest when she can put as many of those together as possible. WWith more than 20 years of experience as a radio reporter and public relations professional, Velia is a natural communicator who loves to hear stories, to share stories and to tell it like it is.
Velia earned her B.A. from the UW School of Journalism and is thankful for every moment she spent on that wonderfully wacky campus.
And, in the interest of full disclosure, Velia is the wife of OnMilwaukee.com Publisher Andy Tarnoff.