We all know those bands who have had their heyday, but just keep touring to make a buck off their greatest hits. Often, they only have a few founding members left in the group, and for fans, it can be a subtle reminder that the music they loved is a shell of what it used to be.
The Pixies are not one of those bands, which was made crystal clear on Monday night by their show at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.
I didn’t see The Pixies’ last concert at the venue in 2011 when they were still touring with founding member and bassist Kim Deal, so I won’t make any comparisons. All I can say is, Paz Lenchantin, who’s been touring with the group since Deal left in 2013, was a spark of energy who played and sang like she’d been with Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering all along.
The venue was about half-full by the time the iconic foursome took the stage, but they didn’t seem to have time to notice, and it certainly didn’t affect how or what they played.
They started out nice and easy with a subdued rendition of “She” followed by the classic “Wave of Mutilation,” which they’d reprise by the end of the night. Intensity started to build with older rockers such as “Nimrod’s Son,” then “Mr. Grieves,” which led right into “Greens and Blues” off their latest album “Indie Cindy.”
And that’s pretty much how the night went: old, lesser-known gems from as far back as the 1987 album “Come on Pilgrim,” right up next to their latest tunes, with a healthy dose of hits like “Debaser” and “Here Comes Your Man” swirled in.
And they barely paused to catch a breath in between. It was a galloping tour through the band’s catalog, which seemed to emphasize just how timeless this band really is.
They can take a 10-year hiatus, lose a key member in the middle of writing new songs, and still, their ability to create and perform infectious music endures.
There was heavy-metal thrashing and high-pitched screaming by Francis, who may be the most composed punk rocker who ever lived, and then there was whimsical fun like “La La Love You,” a gentle crowd-favorite sung by Lovering, the drummer.
A particularly memorable moment came at the very end of the night. After playing their most recognizable hit, “Where Is My Mind?” during the encore, they went into an older tune, “Vamos,” which is characterized by heavy feedback from Santiago’s electric guitar.
It was so heavy, in fact, that he stopped playing the guitar altogether. He unplugged the quarter-inch amp chord from the guitar, and just started to play around with it, sending gritty, high-pitched feedback all over with every jerk and loop of the chord. That went on for about five minutes, with the audience and the other band members looking on, laughing in disbelief.
It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and judging by the murmurs of the crowd filing out of the venue shortly afterwards, I don’t think I was the only one who left the show feeling bewitched by The Pixies’ magic.