The Pixies are legends. Not legends in the sense of being instantly recognizable on the radio or MTV, but legends in their own right. Black Francis (who now goes by his real name, Charles Thompson), Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering were lucky enough to even be mentioned on the radio and never topped the music charts. However, thanks to a young Seattle musician named Kurt Cobain, the Pixies became known for their influence. On Sunday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl, they proved why their legend continues to grow.
First up was the Irish-born but California-influenced group the Thrills. The Thrills brought a mellow vibe to the concert, playing Beach Boys-esque tunes like “Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far).” The Thrills also had a good time joking around with tunes like “Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?”
The Pixies opened with Deal singing “In Heaven,” a little-known tune that was salvaged in the Purple Tapes. Thompson then entered more familiar territory, playing a softer version of “Wave of Mutilation” on acoustic guitar. The Pixies then segued into “Where is My Mind?” with Deal’s voice sending chills down the spines of the audience during the chorus. Thompson got a chance to show his Spanish-speaking prowess during “Vamos.” During the song, Santiago did a strange ritual with the guitar, setting it on its stand and making noise with the effect pedal, all while pointing at the guitar with a drumstick in a sort of black magic trance. The crowd ate it up. “Here Comes Your Man,” perhaps the Pixies’ biggest hit, had Deal and Thompson engaging in a delicate harmony that rang throughout the Santa Barbara Bowl.
Thompson put away his acoustic guitar and brought out the electric to get to the “loud” part of the Pixies’ “soft/loud” formula. The Pixies mostly stuck to material from their two most popular albums, Doolittle and Surfer Rosa, although some lesser-known favorites like “Caribou” and “U-Mass” were thrown in for good measure. Thompson even had some fun with the crowd shouting “Hey!” and then turning around before performing his trademark song of love and rejection, “Hey.”
For an encore, Deal sang her signature “Gigantic” to close out the show. The Pixies stood for a moment after the show, taking in the applause while standing in the spotlight. They deserved it. Welcome back.