If you ever made a trip Stateside, chances are you never touched down in Minnesota. Nestled near the top of the United States, Minnesota is close enough to northern neighbours Canada that the winters are cold and unforgiving, and just east enough that the summers humid and unforgiving. And as for the people, well, you saw Fargo didn’t you?
Pixies frontman Frank Black, aka Black Francis, aka Charles Thompson, was never one to conform to convention and so instead of putting on a showy Los Angeles opening, his Boston band’s (echo on) first performance in over a decade (echo off), is at the humble Fine Line Café in downtown Minneapolis, MN, just because he (allegedly) likes it. So elbow-wrestling with the Hilton sisters, Osbournes and every other paparazzi picture-hungry young celeb in Hollywood can wait until another day, or at least until The Darkness return.
Instead, tonight is for the music, which is exactly how it should be with this legendary band. And that music? Well, it’s still perfect. Set over a roar of a thousand screaming voices that know nearly every word, the Pixies are buzzing with brilliance and better than you ever imagined they could be. Onstage, Black looks like an older, chubbier, constantly grimacing cousin of Matt Lucas, but he slurs the blues of ‘Bone Machine’ like a sex god, eeks the lyrics of ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ like an indie prophet, and curls out every note of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ in the way that makes you forget every other band in the world. Radiofoot? Libertimes? Franz Fernando?
In this themed venue, with its vintage, dusty brick walls, faux street lamps and billboard marquees, things look like a movie set; and the magic that goes with such things is here too. Kim Deal knows it, and though her head hangs down as she strums an orange bass, the corners of her mouth betray her cool floor stare as they race in opposite directions, sharply heading north and eventually erupting
into the most enormous grin in the history of humanity. “Thanks,” she says, rather simply, to the crowd – the Pixies’ first word of the night – before fourth track ‘Levitate Me’ races on.
With David Lovering in the back, sporting the bling bling necklace, shirt unbuttoned down to there and a rather unfortunate leather hat, things carry on a speedy pace. It’s so quick that they manage to plough through 26 songs in 90 minutes, leaving little time for banter with the audience, or proper breathing techniques. Black sweats profusely and Deal hardly has time for the fags she keeps lighting, but guitarist Joey Santiago, with his fingers doing the business, is only weak in the eyes as they dart rapidly around the hall, making him seem half-terrified.
By the encore, though, nerves take a breather as they rush through their final five, ending on the Deal-led ‘Into The White’, her icy voice and warm bass finding a friend in Santiago’s tepid guitar, Lovering’s demanding drums and Black’s slapped acoustic. As they set their instruments aside and take in the spectacle of hundreds of raised arms reaching for them, it’s funny to reflect how they ended the band in part because they didn’t like touring. These four people have rarely looked so relaxed.