Some things are worth waiting for. And Monday night’s Pixies show in front of thousands of avid fans – both young and, dare I say, old – at Expo Tel Aviv, was a prime example.
While the American alt rock band’s last scheduled appearance in Israel in 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19, the two-year hiatus was all but forgotten within minutes. Taking the stage after Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell’s spectacular, hour-long warm-up, the Pixies quickly showed why they are one of the most influential, if not underrated, groups in the last few decades.
Displaying a diversity of genres from indie, noise and surfer rock to psychedelia and punk, the band from Boston electrified the crowd with a non-stop sampling of some 35 songs spanning its 35-year career. After opening with a Surftones cover of “Cecilia Ann” and “St. Nazire,” the band launched into fan favorites “Wave of Mutilation” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” as frontman and songwriter Black Francis (aka Frank Black) took center stage for the next two hours.
Accompanied by fellow co-founder and guitarist extraordinaire Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and bassist Paz Lenchantin, the band moved on to two recent releases. A no-holds barred Santiago led the group in a raucous romp with “Human Crime,” the band’s first new song in two years. That was followed by “There’s a Moon On,” an eerie, werewolf-inspired rock groove that will appear in their upcoming album Doggerel.
After Black reverted to his love of Spanish lyrics in “Vamos,” the group invigorated the audience with yet another classic, “Here Comes Your Man.” With a unique mix of screaming/yowling and melodic styles, Black continued to wow the crowd with popular hits “Ana” and “Gouge Away.” The frontman was also more than ably accompanied by Lenchantin in “All the Saints” and “Brick is Red.”
The now-revved up audience joined forces with the band in the colossal “Gigantic” followed by a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On,” accentuating the Pixies’ pre-grunge, late ’80s style compared to the Chain’s new wave-era music.
Highlighting Santiago’s ability to seamlessly integrate distortion into song (did I again hear The Jesus and Mary Chain?), the band entered another zone with “Rock Music,” “Havalina” and “Velouria.”
The band's style
Despite the Pixies’ unconventional/groundbreaking style, including the loud-quiet-loud dynamic and tempos shifting on a dime that have influenced the Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and other seminal bands, the Pixies also know how to make good pop. That was evident as they segued into their megahit “Where is My Mind” followed a bit later by “Hey,” with the crowd responding in sync with Black as if they had rehearsed together earlier in the day.
The two hits were sandwiched by a Santiago special, “Bone Machine,” and the third cover of the evening, Neil Young’s “Winterlong,” featuring a more than enchanting Lenchantin, who admirably replaced original bassist Kim Deal in 2014.
The band closed out its show with a lively version of “Debaser,” leaving the crowd with hoarse voices, ringing ears and big smiles on their face… and no encores.
Just what you would expect from the unexpected Pixies.