CLEVELAND, Ohio – Pixies singer Black Francis wasn’t much of a talker at the indie rock band’s Cleveland show. A stretch of songs was interrupted only once by non-song dialogue, when Francis took a short break:
“I’m gonna wipe my face,” he announced, swiping a towel over his sweaty forehead.
That was it. Besides this one moment, it was constant music all the way through the band’s set at the Agora on Tuesday night.
Before Pixies took the stage, opening band Sunflower Bean put on a rocking set full guitar shredding. Singer and bassist Julia Cumming showed off her pipes during songs like “Easier Said” and “I Was Home.” Later, she flipped her blond hair in circles, headbanging while slamming out a bass rhythm.
But the main event was the Pixies. The band worked its way through songs from each of its six albums, including the band’s most recent release, 2016’s “Head Carrier.”
Pixies were at their best when they were strange. Like, when Francis gave his most evil cackle after the lyrics “I hope everything is all right” in the song “Mr. Grieves.” Or when guitarist Joey Santiago gave a guitar solo composed out of scratchy feedback, in “Vamos.” Or when Francis repeatedly yelped during “Monkey Gone To Heaven.”
The band has always been an innovative one, setting trends in rock music since it formed in the 80s. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain once said that he “was basically trying to rip off the Pixies” in a Rolling Stone interview. The band has also influenced artists like Radiohead and David Bowie.
Despite seeing modest album sales throughout their history, the Pixies have cemented themselves as icons in the modern rock music world.
Still, everything is not as it once was. The lineup of the band is different than how it was in the 1980s, since original bassist and vocalist Kim Deal departed in 2013 and has been replaced by Paz Lenchantin.
Lenchantin knows her place and how she fits into the band’s history. At the Agora, Pixies performed the song “All I Think About Now” late in the evening; the song is the only one not written by Francis on “Head Carrier.” Lenchantin helped pen the song, which is a direct thank-you to Deal.
“I remember we were happy. That’s all I think about now,” sang Lenchantin in her deadpan style. “If you have any doubt, I want to thank you anyhow.”
Though the band focused on the “Head Carrier” album at its show, it still touched on a little bit of everything in its discography.
There were moments where Pixies rocked hard.
The scuzzy “Boom Shagga Lagga” featured a shouting Francis coupled with Lenchantin’s voice, which was barely intelligible through a thick megaphone effect. The doomy “Velouria” was prefaced with lots of guitar feedback and sound effects.
Drummer David Lovering hardly got a break through much of the band’s kick-drum heavy songs.
Yet, within the audience, the vibe stayed chill.
While the concert was well attended, it didn’t officially sell out the Agora. In the balcony section, the higher up you looked, the less the rows of seats were filled.
Most people with a general admission ticket instead opted for the ground standing area, where it remained densely packed, but pretty lowkey throughout the night. Occasionally, small groups of people would throw fists in the air to the beat of the song.
It’s crowded at the @PIXIES show tonight at @agoracle! So fun!! pic.twitter.com/hBmxnwYgtU
— Annie Nickoloff (@Nickoloffoff) October 4, 2017
Many people hovered further back, beers in hand, watching the show calmly.
The most well-known song by Pixies is “Where Is My Mind?” (if you’ve seen the movie “Fight Club,” you’ll recognize the song from the climactic ending scene) – but the Pixies didn’t save it for the encore. Instead, it was sandwiched in the last third of the set.
At the end of the concert, Francis still didn’t speak outside of his songs. Instead, the singer commanded the audience with an upraised hand in the air. The roaring audience returned the gesture.
The bandmates professionally bowed to the audience, then took their places onstage for an encore: “Into The White,” the Pixies’ final song of the evening.
Over the course of more than 25 songs, Pixies managed to revisit critically acclaimed albums and fresher, less-renowned ones, too. But throughout the entire show, the band added what it could to keep its performance strange.