The Pixies never struck me as a studio band. Frank Black's songs work because of the pop hooks buried inside his noisy compositions, and you'd expect that to translate onstage.
But on the first night of their trio of Portland dates, I longed for the studio versions. The loud-quiet-loud dynamic that make the Pixies material work was underplayed, instead leaving a monotonous and muddy punk show, without the youthful exuberance that makes punk shows work.
The problem? A big part of it is new bassist Paz Lenchantin, a very competent player who nonetheless lacks Kim Deal's innate feel for the rhythms that drive Black's songs. She's more than capable of playing the notes, but couldn't seem to find the grooves. Another problem was the nature of a three-night stand, which meant that the first night's set was short on the hits, with duds like "Crackity Jones," "Cactus" and "Brick Is Red" all making appearances.
And then there's the rhythm of the show, which is unnatural because of Black's longstanding reluctance to provide any banter between songs, instead just charging through 30 songs as though he's racing to finish his chores. Black's band played both versions of "Wave of Mutilation," opening with the original and playing the slowed-down "U.K. Surf" version toward the end of the night. The effect didn't work for me—with the muddy sound and lack of interaction with the crowd, the second take just felt like a deflated version of the first.
See Related: Six Songs That Prove Weezer Is Better Than the Pixies.
All photos by Henry Cromett.