The fellas in Pixies may look like they’re embracing dad rock – on Tuesday, the first of two nights at L.A.’s Theatre at Ace Hotel: guitarist Joey Santiago in his gentleman’s vest, frontman Black Francis sporting his dark-framed glasses, and David Lovering sporting that white sports cap – but the seminal Boston outfit played with the power of a group spearheading a new movement of punk rock.

dbh-pixies_theatreatacehotelDTLA-042517-03Few can unleash a scream equal to Francis’, Santiago’s riffs are still innovative (and loud) as ever, and now with permanent new bassist Paz Lenchantin – a musician with not only impressive credentials (Billy Corgan’s post-Pumpkins outfit Zwan, A Perfect Circle) but with natural rock star flair – they sound as fresh as the new batch of songs they released via sixth studio album Head Carrier last September. Songs from that record played tonight harken back to a classic Pixies sound without relying on nostalgia – Santiago’s enjoyably jarring fretwork is largely responsible for such stylistic stability.

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Of course, generally speaking, fans wanna hear the old stuff. At least in the Pixies case – largely because of their consistently cult following – most peeps were at least as enthusiastic about the hits (“Here Comes Your Man,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Where is My Mind?”) as they were about deep cuts (“ Nimrod’s Son,” “Into the White,” which saw the group disappear into a cloud of thick smoke as Lenchantin sang it for the one-song encore). But the disadvantage of a seated venue like the Ace – despite its beautiful atmosphere – reared its ugly head each time a new cut came up: it’s not that the quartet didn’t sound sharp (no, they rocked ridiculously hard on “Um Chagga Lagga” like a 20-years-younger version of themselves), but when folks don’t know a song and they have the option to sit down, they take it.

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The show’s only other downside stemmed from a personal gripe (it should be noted that the band is a longtime fave and I’ve caught a lot shows over the years, so this isn’t some cynical critic just throwing punches to get a rise): Pixies always perform at a pummeling pace – there’s little-to-no-stage banter between songs, and most tracks are short, so they can fit in nearly three dozen of ‘em, easy – but for much of this gig, the rush overshadowed the band’s subtleties, one of their most affecting live appeals. Often it was as simple as moving one half-beat too fast (new cuts “All the Saints” and “All I Think About Now” lost their finesse to this fault), or not letting a chord ring out long enough at the end before launching into the next number. Most disappointing was the omission of a couple extra measures of Lenchantin leading the crowd through the ending ooh-ooh’s of “Where is My Mind?” – that all-in a cappella coda is typically transcendent.dbh-pixies_theatreatacehotelDTLA-042517-01

Yet it’s doubtful those finer details were of concern to almost everyone else, and there were plenty of heartwarming moments where excitement over certain old-school choices (“Bone Machine,” “Debaser“) inspired seat mutinies – giddy guys and gals abandoned their assigned spots to dance in the gaps between aisles. And besides, the set list was among the group’s most prolific and potent: 31 songs from across every one of their albums (including relative rarities) plus choice covers of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” and the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” (the latter Trompe Le Monde inclusion was a high-octane No. 2 tonight, one helluva way to follow kickoff “Gouge Away”). As far as classic alt-rock performances go, this one was pretty fucking legendary. Then again, these days so are the Pixies.

Words and photos by David Brendan Hall

Pixies Tour Dates:

Date Venue Location
Apr 30 White Oak Music Hall Houston, TX Tickets & More
May 01 Stubb’s BBQ Austin, TX Tickets & More
May 03 Saenger Theatre New Orleans New Orleans, LA Tickets & More
May 05 Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN Tickets & More
May 06 Madison Theater Covington, KY Tickets & More
May 07 EXPRESS LIVE! Columbus, OH Tickets & More
May 09 The National Richmond, VA Tickets & More
May 11 Durham Performing Arts Center Durham, NC Tickets & More
May 12 Centennial Olympic Park Atlanta, GA Tickets & More
May 14 Rams Head Live! Baltimore, MD Tickets & More
May 16 The Lincoln Theater Washington, DC Tickets & More
May 17 The Lincoln Theater Washington, DC Tickets & More
May 19 House of Blues Boston, MA Tickets & More
May 20 House of Blues Boston, MA Tickets & More
May 21 Paradise Rock Club Boston, MA Tickets & More
May 23 Electric Factory Philadelphia, PA Tickets & More
May 24 Webster Hall New York, NY Tickets & More
May 25 Brooklyn Steel Brooklyn, NY Tickets & More
May 26 Brooklyn Steel Brooklyn, NY Tickets & More
Jul 06 Hyde Park London, United Kingdom Tickets & More
Jul 07 Ilsteg Feldkirch, Austria Tickets & More
Jul 09 Trinity College Park Dublin, Ireland Tickets & More
Jul 12 KRIŽANKE Ljubljana, Slovenia Tickets & More
Jul 14 Zvejnieku Park Salacgriva, Latvia Tickets & More
Jul 22 HIPPODROME DE LONGCHAMP Paris, France Tickets & More
Jul 28 Le Port Saint Nazaire, France Tickets & More
Jul 29 THEATRE JEAN-DESCHAMPS Carcassonne, France Tickets & More
Jul 30 Le Port Saint Nazaire, France Tickets & More
Aug 02 PARC DES EXPOSITIONS Colmar, France Tickets & More
Aug 07 Kelvingrove Bandstand Glasgow, United Kingdom Tickets & More
Aug 08 Kelvingrove Bandstand Glasgow, United Kingdom Tickets & More
Aug 09 Lokerse Feesten Lokeren, Belgium Tickets & More
Aug 10 Slottsskogen Gothenburg, Sweden Tickets & More
Sep 07 Doheny State Beach Dana Point, CA Tickets & More
Sep 08 Doheny State Beach Dana Point, CA Tickets & More
Sep 09 Doheny State Beach Dana Point, CA Tickets & More
Sep 19 College Street Music Hall. New Haven, CT Tickets & More
Sep 20 John M Greene Hall at Smith College Northampton, MA Tickets & More
Sep 22 The Space at Westbury Theater Westbury, NY Tickets & More
Sep 23 Stone Pony Summer Stage Asbury Park, NJ Tickets & More
Sep 24 The Capitol Theatre Port Chester, NY Tickets & More
Sep 26 State Theatre Portland, ME Tickets & More
Sep 27 Metropolis Montréal, Canada Tickets & More
Sep 29 Massey Hall Toronto, Canada Tickets & More
Sep 30 Massey Hall Toronto, Canada Tickets & More
Oct 03 The Agora Theater Cleveland, OH Tickets & More
Oct 04 Stage AE Pittsburgh, PA Tickets & More
Oct 06 The Fillmore Detroit Detroit, MI Tickets & More
Oct 07 20 Monroe Live Grand Rapids, MI Tickets & More
Oct 08 The Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL Tickets & More
Oct 10 Palace Theatre St. Paul, MN Tickets & More
Oct 11 Palace Theatre St. Paul, MN Tickets & More
Oct 12 Bluestem Center for the Arts Amphitheater Fargo, ND Tickets & More
Oct 14 Peabody Opera House St Louis, MO Tickets & More
Oct 15 Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland Kansas City, MO Tickets & More
Oct 17 Boulder Theater Boulder, CO Tickets & More
Oct 18 Fillmore Auditorium Denver, CO Tickets & More
Oct 19 Steele Indian School Park Phoenix, AZ Tickets & More
Oct 21 The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV Tickets & More