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Live Review: Pixies at Louisville Palace (5/15/15)

Kelli Redding // Derek White // Click Photos for High-Res Versions
Earlier this month, legendary alternative rock pioneers Pixies embarked on a North American tour that would span cities the band had previously missed on recent tours. The tour kicked off in New Orleans at the beginning of May and would wrap up at Quebec’s Amnesia Festival in June. In the midst of the tour, the band made a stop at the historic venue Louisville Palace for an evening of newer songs, classics, and offbeat rock ‘n’ roll.  

After a handful of quirky electro-infused piano ballads from opening artist John Grant, Pixies took the stage and immediately dived into the whirlwind Bossanova track, “Ana.” Immediately following was an emotionally stripped-down version of the fan favorite, “Wave Of Mutilation.” 

Next, the band dived headfirst from one song into the next, retrieving deep cuts from Surfer Rosa to Come On Pilgrim to anywhere amongst their decades of material to choose from. “Gouge Away” was a standout moment, highlighting replacement bassist/backing vocalist Paz Lenchantin’s competency in filling the large shoes of the much-missed Kim Deal.  Some of the band’s biggest hits, “Hey” and “Where Is My Mind?,” had the crowd on their feet singing, and fresh cuts from the band’s most recent offering, “Indie Cindy,” were surprisingly welcome.  For the most part, however, I had no idea what the band would play next - as the setlist varied on a nightly basis - and instead of certain expected songs such as "Here Comes Your Man" or "La La Love You," I was met with howling versions of "Bone Machine" and "Cactus." The band returned for the encore and ended with "Debaser," a perfect finale, and definitely the very song that had pulled me into the world of alternative rock as the first track on Doolittle. 

Pixies jumped from one hit to the next, bombarding the audience with their signature style of loud-then-soft-then-loud-again spontaneous avalanches of sound. Black Francis’s voice - sometimes cackling, sometimes whispering - carried to the Palace’s balcony and back again, and the band rattled the audience with as many songs as they could possibly fit into the night’s setlist. Sure, a reunion of the original lineup would be fantastic, but few can complain about an electrifying 31-song setlist that included the classics, the obscure, and the recently written. 

From influencing iconic bands such as The Strokes or Nirvana to inspiring dozens of young indie bands of today, the live performance of Pixies make it clear why their songs have resonated with so many – and live up to their status as one of alternative rock’s most beloved. 

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