(photo credit: TRAVIS SHINN)
The Pixies have the best of two worlds. The American postpunk favorites are regarded as one of the most influential bands of the last 30 years and still perform to all-age sellout audiences around the world. But being in essence an alternative rock legacy act, they’re no longer nearly as high-profile as, say, Radiohead. So their two shows in Israel next week at the Caesarea Amphitheater seem to have fallen under the radar of Roger Waters and the usual suspects BDS coterie.
Or maybe it’s because of the band’s refusal or lack of interest to enter into the political fray. Some artists, like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, U2’s Bono or former REM frontman Michael Stipe, who this week spoke from beneath his rabbinic beard to defend Radiohead’s decision to perform in Israel, can’t seem to keep from getting embroiled in news headlines. It’s in their nature.
The Pixies’ rotund figurehead Frank Black is just the opposite. Especially onstage, he hardly says a word, not even “hello,” as he and band co-founders David Lovering on drums and Joey Santiago on lead guitar, along with Kim Deal-replacement bassist Paz Lechantin, barrel through their rich catalogue anchored by “Here Comes Your Man,” “Where Is My Mind?” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” in a frenetic rat-a-tat manner.
That’s not to say that the Pixies haven’t been dragged into controversial areas that come part and parcel with performing in Israel. Slated to headline a 2010 festival in Tel Aviv, the band ended up being one of the high-profile cancellations to Israel that year in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turkish activists aboard the Gazabound aid ship were killed.
Rather than identifying with a boycott of Israel, the band cited security concerns. They issued a statement saying that the decision had not been taken lightly and stated, “We’d like to extend our deepest apologies to the fans, but events beyond all our control have conspired against us.”
They promised to reschedule the show, and damned if they didn’t keep their promise four years later at Bloomfield Stadium, a decade into their second incarnation that saw them perform to more people than they ever did during their 1988-1993 heyday.
Although they’ve released two respectable albums in the 2000s – 2014’s Indie Cindy and last year’s Head Carrier
– it’s the late 1980s classics that continue to capture the hearts and minds of fans, many of whom are musicians.
“They are one of the most influential bands on the planet, and last time we were here we actually did a cover of a Pixies song. To be here to hear it tonight live was really, really amazing,” said Kings of Leon singer Caleb Followill last week after sharing the bill with the Pixies last week in London’s Hyde Park before 55,000 people, according to the website The List.
Closer to home, Gil Landau and Yael Shoshana Cohen of local indie folk-pop band Lola Marsh, who will be opening the second of the two Pixies shows in Caesarea next week (July 26, with Geva Alons’ Vegan Friendly opening on the 25th), told The Jerusalem Post that they jumped at the chance to play on the same stage with a band they consider “giant.”
“They’re legends. I would hear their music from my big brothers,” said Cohen. “When we were asked to open the show, the first thing I did was call my brothers. We grew up with their music, and everything you hear growing up influences you. I wouldn’t call them a direct influence, but their music is part of our collective consciousness.”
Lola Marsh’s more acoustic, delicate sound might not seem like a natural fit for the Pixies’ unorthodox pop-grunge onslaught, but Landau and Cohen, on the heels of a well-received album Remember Rose and regular touring abroad, are confident in their skills.
“We know that everyone is there for the Pixies, but we’re just going to do our show, and if people enjoy it, that’s great. And if they don’t, that’s fine, but we’re not going to change our show,” said Cohen.
No matter how impressive Lola Marsh or Vegan Friendly are next week, it will all fade away when the Pixies take the stage. Despite the loss of the charismatic Deal, who left the band in 2013, they’ve lost little of their musical power. One review of their Hyde Park show last week described them cramming as many songs as they could into their set, “barely stopping for breath as they ploughed through their extensive back catalogue and newer material, with the likes of ‘Debaser’, ‘Bone Machine’ ‘La La Love You’ and ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’ sparking huge cheers from the crowd.”
Now that the Radiohead BDS dust has settled, Israel can get ready for some Pixies dust.The Pixies will perform at the Caesarea Amphitheater on July 25 and 26.