by David Downs
Legendary alternative rock band Pixies howled the ferocious language of Doolittle to thousands of rabid, animalistic fans at a rare, sold-out engagement in Oakland's Fox Theater Sunday night.
Only the band's second US tour date in four years, the appearance featured lead singer Black Francis, bassist Kim Deal, drummer David Lovering, and guitarist Joey Santiago performing a dream-come-true set list including the entirety of Doolittle ("Monkey Gone to Heaven," "Here Comes Your Man," "Hey," "Tame," and "Debaser"), with two encores including "Gigantic," "Caribou," and Fight Club anthem "Where Is My Mind?"
Twenty years into the release of the influential record, Doolittle has become the Rosetta Stone to alternative music - everyone important, from Nirvana to Modest Mouse and Built to Spill can be decoded through it. And, on Sunday night, the band proved that three chords and two minutes of its time was often enough to encompass the entire artistic career of other bands. The now-fortysomething icons executed Doolittle commendably, if not flawlessly, changing up some choruses and attacks, like Black Francis' slow, whispering, Gollum-esque version of "Wave of Mutilation."
Dressed in black, the rotund juggernaut Francis kept the rock talk near zero, leaving the banter to the adorably ebullient Kim Deal. "Thanks for inviting us to this beautiful fucking place," Deal gushed. She occasionally narrated the set list and joked with the crowd, "Anybody coming tomorrow? We're playing the same songs," referring to their three-night run at the Fox.
Santiago and Lovering focused on the music amid a riveting production that used copious amounts of fog, a video projector of gigantic proportions, and a dynamic, 3-D, lighted sculpture that danced above Pixies' heads.
The band seemed to embrace the sing-along aspect of a reunion tour to perform Doolittle, feeding the crowd lyrics on the video screen and further amplifying that strange feeling when you're at a show and everyone is singing every word of every song. It was a rapturous, teenage fantasy occasion for most in the crowd, darkly underlined by the brooding, anxious themes in the music.
The show opened with a weird, dark surreal piece of film - the 1929 silent short Un chien andalou - that ends with a couple sinking into the sand, which reminds you that the initial title for Doolittle was Whore. The end of the Eighties featured the withdrawal of Soviet Forces from Afghanistan after a disastrous nine-year campaign, the Pan Am bombings, the massacre at Tiananmen Square, and Reagan followed by George H.W. Bush. Doolittle is more than just a primer for the Nineties; it was a harbinger, conveying the overweening sense of dread and comedy that would mark the century's turn, skid, and ultimate slide off the highway - tree branches whipping the windshield as we rolled off into the abyss. It was all there on vinyl in 1989, if you knew how to listen.
"I can't believe this album came out twenty years ago" quipped TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone, who opened with solo act Rain Machine. "Pixies saved me in high school."
1. Dancing The Manta Ray
2. Weird at My School
3. Bailey's Walk
4. Manta Ray
7. Wave of Mutilation
8. I Bleed
9. Here Comes Your Man
11. Monkey Gone to Heaven
12. Mr. Grieves
13. Crackity Jones
14. La La Love You
15. No. 13 Baby
16. There Goes My Gun
19. Gouge Away
20. Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
21. Into the White
22. Where Is My Mind?
Pixies perform at the Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave Oakland) on November 9 (sold out) and 10. 8 p.m., $64.50, $49.50.
The Pixies have a free EP of live music they are giving away on the Internet here, and are currently selling deluxe and limited editions of box set Minotaur. The deluxe is $150. The limited edition is $500, weighs 25 pounds, and is limited to 3,000, individually numbered units, hand-signed by every member of Pixies and Vaughan Oliver. Visit here to buy.