Only a handful of bands can truly command the stage like the Pixies do.
Frontman Black Francis and his bandmates were all business in an extraordinary 31-song set recently at The Anthem, where as usual they arrived with no planned setlist and played through selections from their eight studio albums.
That degree of musical agility requires a certain level of authority, wherein the band know their stuff so well that they can simply knock it out at will. And the Pixies most certainly nailed it at The Anthem on June 10, drawing heavily from two ends of their career — seven songs from their most recent album Doggerel (2022) and eight songs from their seminal record Doolittle (1989).
The Pixies played quite a few of the new album tunes in the front end of the concert. The audience was charmed by pleasing, vibrant songs like “Who’s More Sorry Now,” which incorporates some signature Pixies surf rock, and “The Lord Has Come Back Today,” a sunny ode to sharing a new day.
In these songs and others, Black Francis and fellow guitarist Joey Santiago entertained with some hypnotic interplay, Francis filling in the spaces quite nicely between his longtime bandmate’s prominent chords. The resulting melodies have a very lush ’60s feel to them.
Watch the Pixies perform “The Lord Has Come Back Today” live for Band on the Wall via YouTube:
The Pixies began their career in earnest with the release of debut record Surfer Rosa in 1988, and the band consisted then of Francis, Joey, drummer David Lovering, and bassist Kim Deal. Since 2016, Pixies have officially welcomed Paz Lenchantin on bass as Deal’s replacement. I digress, however. Those early songs really resonate, and the Pixies thrilled toward the end of their set at The Anthem with “Where Is My Mind?” From Surfer Rosa.
But as mentioned earlier, it was the sophomore record Doolittle that really put them on the map, and the album today continues to have legs. The Pixies performed *two* versions of “Wave of Mutilation” from the album, by way of example — a standard live rendition early in the show and a UK surf version much later. Talk about giving the people what they want surely, but given that the Pixies come in every night with no setlist, what a remarkable feat of on-the-ground coordination!
The Pixies played Doolittle faves “Debaser” in the middle of the pack and “Here Comes Your Man” in the last leg of the show. The instantly recognizable hit elicited a wave of excitement from the audience as Paz launched it with its distinct bassline. David was loose and groovy on the drums, and his congenial presence really grounded the band throughout the show. The really brilliant surf rhythms took hold of the audience’s soul and Francis’s sweetly agreeable lyrics owned our hearts.
Watch the official music video for “Here Comes Your Man” by Pixies on YouTube:
This remarkable tour was launched in May, and so the Pixies had been on the road for more than a month by the time they arrived at The Anthem. More remarkably, however, the Pixies played the very small room at The Anthem four days earlier, and so the band’s appearance at The Anthem marked their second DC show in less than a week. And The Atlantis setlist was so different, leaning heavily into their 1987 EP, Come On Pilgrim, for instance. Both shows featured a pair of great covers, though — a cover of “Head On” by fellow noise band Jesus and Mary Chain and “Winterlong” by Neil Young, the latter closing out each show.
Francis and his bandmates played to sold-out venues for 450 people and then to 6,000 over their two trips to Washington, DC, and both times slid comfortably into their places. No matter the size of the stage, the Pixies were sure to take command.
Here are some photos of the Pixies performing at The Anthem on June 10, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.