Pixies, widely held to be grunge’s progenitors as well as early ’90s alt-rock darlings, kicked off its Doolittle tour in rollicking style last Wednesday at the Hollywood Palladium. The band’s members have lost nearly all of their hair (bassist Kim Deal’s remains the longest by default) — and gained back an inversely proportional amount of weight, but lost none of their musical chops as they tore through Doolittle as if their decade-plus hiatus was spent doing things other than recording Breeders albums (in Kim’s case) and freak-folk (in Black Francis’).
Kim looked and sounded much like the alt-rock goddess that made so many pubescent nerds in the late ’80s hang around her dressing room hoping that maybe she had a thing for dudes with ironic taste in T-shirts and horn-rimmed glasses. She powered her way through four beers in the brief set, leading to nonstop “She’s only drinking that because she’s so coked out” jokes spawned by her famous (or infamous depending on your inclination in this area) drug habit, a contributing factor (along with Black Francis’ jealousy of her celebrity) to the group’s breakup in 1993.
The band played Doolittle in its entirety, bookended by B-sides (“Into the White” was the highlight of these, played through a thick smoke screen and providing some of the coolest images of the entire concert).
Doolittle still sounds as fresh as it must have when it first came out two decades ago, “Debaser” still rocks just as hard as you remember and “Gouge Away” retains the teeth-gritted intensity that makes it one of the angriest songs ever written at that tempo. “Hey” also retained all of its luster, and the band seemed acutely attuned to the loudQUIETloud song structure that spawned a documentary of that name as well as a legion of imitators that ranges from Nirvana (who basically cribbed Doolittle as the basis for its entire career, and I dare you to prove me wrong) to No Age (which opened the show, but I arrived too late to catch its performance, which ended at 8:30.)
The band – and the assembled audience – showed its age distinctly with a set that ended well after it was supposed to (a mind-boggling 10:30 p.m.; most bands don’t even start thinking about coming out until then, and even then they usually have to wait for their drummers to stop doing drugs with groupies long enough to stumble through a set).
The middle of the show seemed to show some enthusiasm, with a lucky few even managing to crowd surf their way through “Where is My Mind,” but the rest of the crowd was dominated by overweight bald dudes wearing cabbie hats (seriously, it was like they formed a cult or something), people that got pissed if you wanted to, you know, dance to the music or something (one guy in particular seemed like he was going to punch my friend in the back of the head for stepping on his toes), and one group of unbelievably enthusiastic (and unbelievably drunk) girls that managed to work their way to the front after spending the beginning of the show complaining that they couldn’t properly see Black Francis. Oh, well.
Overall, the band was just as great as it must have been during its heyday, although playing at a muted volume to a room full of people committed to maintained a respectfully reserved pose rather than a tiny club of shitfaced college kids furiously moshing. If they follow through on their announce plans to release a “Hollywood-themed” (whatever that means, although I’m guessing it might touch on Kim’s drug habit) album, then you can color this reporter extremely excited to hear what the group produces in terms of new material after such a lengthy layoff.