The Pixies “La La Love” performing in Anaheim, CA

As I entered the ever-inviting House of Blues in Anaheim, California for The Pixies’ show, I was filled with mixed emotions. First, let me say that I am embarrassed that this was my first Pixies’ concert… I have really enjoyed their music since Surfer Rosa, but just never have had the chance to see them live and, man, do I totally regret that 30-year lapse in judgment!

I was both excited to see them play and yet hesitant, because I have seen so many of their concert videos where the band just didn’t interact with the crowd. It made me nervous that the show would be kind of boring. For me, the connection between band and audience is crucial, and that frequently requires some level of direct interaction. When a band simply performs their songs, it typically makes for a boring show.

But, again, this was my first Pixies show and OH MY GOD was I wrong in that estimation!

I should have set those doubts at ease when their media relations rep told me the band never uses a setlist. NEVER! Instead, The Pixies have about 100 songs at the ready and their setlist changes every single show. What the hell? If you are not a musician or musician-related, you have no idea how insane that is!! That takes an incredible level of talent that few other bands possess and, yes, I am referring to some of the biggest and most popular bands of all time. Most bands rehearse the same songs for a setlist for weeks (if not a couple of months) before setting off on tour to play the exact same show every single night. They do this for several reasons, including timing and making sure they can really ‘perform’ for the crowd, perfecting any hiccups as the tour goes on. That should have been such a huge indicator for me that The Pixies were beyond special.

I also was not prepared to walk into the venue an hour before show time and see the crowd that tightly packed in! Usually, the opening act is treated to a half empty dance floor when they take the stage, but the opening act that night, Cherry Glazerr, walked out to a packed sold-out house! It became so much clearer to me that ravenous fans of The Pixies are so much more than that… they are true believers in the three-decades-old post punk band.

They knew what they were in for that night and I was not, but boy, did I find out.

Another potential pitfall for an opening act, especially one walking out to a jam-packed house waiting for their beloved band, is the absolute scrutiny and skepticism that they may face from that same crowd. However, from the moment that the first song dropped, Cherry Glazerr won the crowd over. They played loud and fast, yet melodic punk tunes that really captured the audience. The LA-based trio dropped their known songs “Told You I’d Be With the Guys”, “Daddi” and “Stupid Fish”, but for me, the highlight song was “Distressor”. Singer and lead guitar player Clementine Creevy has a hauntingly soulful voice and this song leans on a darker and more melancholic tone, which her voice balances out with distinguished beauty.

During each song, the crowd’s appreciation grew for the band.

They wrapped their set with the driving sound of Creevy’s heavily distorted guitar on the crowd-pleasing track “White’s Not My Color This Evening”. The song had beautiful syncopation and a starting tone that reminisced a touch of old acid rock before the distorted driving punk riff kicks in. I really enjoyed Cherry Glazerr and met the band following their set. We had a short chat and they were truly humble and gracious. I look forward to seeing them again and diving into their music with reckless abandon!

Their full set list:

  1. Told You I’d Be With The Guys
  2. Had Ten Dollars
  3. That’s Not My Real Life
  4. Daddi
  5. Nurse Ratched
  6. Distressor
  7. Stupid Fish
  8. White’s Not My Color

While waiting for The Pixies to take the stage, I was talking to a young lady in the crowd who told me she had seen them live more than 20 times! Now, there are not many bands in the world I have seen 20 times and there are even fewer that I would want to see that many times, so my excitement for The Pixies to take the stage was now peaked (although my gently looming skepticism remained).

As the band took the stage, the crowd exploded in one of the loudest cheers I have heard in a long time. Frontman Black Francis (Charles Thompson IV), lead guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and bassist Paz Lenchantin immediately performed a raucous and perfect version of “Ed is Dead”. My tentative thoughts were now starting to be put to rest. This crowd already knew what I was about to learn — The Pixies are freaking amazing live! Through the night, they played a mixed set of deeper cuts (that absolutely pleased the fans) with their classics that sent the entire crowd into a fervor. Some of the highlights from the first half of the set were “Nimrod’s Son”, “Cactus”, “Vamos”, “Gouge Away”, “Break My Body” and “Mr. Grieves”. They sounded perfect and the mix of songs and styles led the crowd with every beat. Halfway through the set, they blew my mind by playing a brilliant cover of Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On”. It is one of my favorite covers by any band with maybe one ironic exception — Bauhaus’ “Ziggy Stardust”… 

As The Pixies went through their set, they did not say a single word to the crowd. Not. A. Single. Word.

A song would start, the crowd would go crazy and sing along — at times drowning out the band — and the band would finish the song and move right on to the next. This is what I was talking about! Just what I feared. BORING! Right? Oh, hell no. I do not know what it is about The Pixies, their music, their insane skills to play it live and the reaction of the audience, but there was something so different, so incredibly special about the performance in each moment that no words were needed aside from the lyrics. This is the one time I will admit that I was so wrong about my position on band and audience interaction. I cannot tell you what it was specifically, but whatever it was, The Pixies made it work. No, The Pixies freaking killed it!

A few songs past the halfway mark of the 30-song set, they began to play their bigger hits and it really took the crowd to a higher place. A mosh pit reminiscent of early 80s punk and mid 80s post punk shows started in the middle of the crowd.

Wait, was that my kid, Ian, in the middle getting it started?

Yep. Ian said that he was so blown away by the music that he simply was moved to move and thankfully, the crowd around him was all-in. From that moment on, the crowd danced, the mellow pit moshed and pogoed, and everyone sang along at the top of their lungs. With each subsequent song, the cheers grew louder and the energy greater. Fans shouted out their favorite song requests, which brought an occasional smile from the band members. There was something palpable going on between the band and the crowd; it was something I have rarely seen at that level in a long time. The first word Black Francis said to the crowd came with a pause, a giant smile on his face and a loud scream of “HEY”! The crowd lost it and sang along with the song of the same name. They followed that with “Debaser” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” (one of my absolute favorite Pixies’ songs). Both songs were passionately performed and led the crowd with every word and note.

Towards the end of the set, they began to play “La La Love You” and a few verses in, Black Francis spoke the only other words to the audience and band by saying, “Wait, that’s the wrong song…”

They then went into “Where Is My Mind”, which drove the crowd into an absolute frenzy.

Black Francis took some liberties with the pace of the lyrics and it just worked. The song was absolute perfection. They ended the night with “Winterlong”, a Neil Young cover. The song ended, the lights came on, the band gathered together, bowed and walked offstage. The audience screamed and cheered for more, but the end of the night had come. My trepidations were laid to rest — The Pixies were simply epic live. They may not interact much with the crowd, they may only say a word or two the entire show, but they leave the crowd spent and incredibly satisfied. 

So, to the sweet young lady who had seen them more than 20 times whom I chatted with before the show and to all of you shaking your heads at me for never seeing this iconic band previously and doubting their ability to truly entertain — I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. And now, I will actively seek them out in another concert. Show one down — at least 19 more to go!

Dear Pixies, I truly “La La Love you” and loved your live show!

Full set list:

  1. Ed Is Dead
  2. Cactus
  3. Nimrod’s Son
  4. The Holiday Song
  5. Vamos
  6. Ana
  7. Brick Is Red
  8. Break My Body
  9. Mr. Grieves
  10. Motorway to Roswell
  11. Gouge Away
  12. Wave of Mutilation
  13. Head On (Jesus and Mary Chain cover)
  14. Something Against you
  15. Isla de Encanta
  16. Caribou
  17. I’ve Been Tired
  18. Hey
  19. Debaser
  20. Monkey Gone to Heaven
  21. Planet of Sound
  22. Who’s More Sorry Now?
  23. There’s a Moon On
  24. The Lord Has Come Back Today
  25. Vault of Heaven
  26. All the Saints
  27. Here Comes Your Man
  28. La La Love You (Partial)
  29. Where is My Mind?
  30. Winterlong (Neil Young cover)

Photography by Shane Pase

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