Concerts

Photos and a review of The Pixies in Toronto

[Ross MacDonald came in from Ottawa to catch The Pixies. – AC]

In the summer, there is no better venue to catch a concert than Toronto’s Budweiser Stage. However, on Saturday evening (8 June), the weather was far from perfect, with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees and a constant drizzle, mother nature was trying to put a damper on the night’s festivities. But fans of the Pixies and Modest Mouse were certainly up for the challenge.

While waiting for Modest Mouse to take the stage, fans on the lawn were mostly in ponchos or holding umbrellas. But when the band took the stage, none of the weather concerns mattered anymore. The band opened with a relatively old song, ‘The Stars Are Projectors’ from the 2000 album ‘The Moon & Antarctica’. And it was over an hour of nonstop music from there.

The Modest Mouse frontman and lead singer Isaac Brock is a man of few words. The band was appreciative of the audience’s cheers, but stuck to playing music.

And play music they did. The Grammy-nominated band has seven albums of music to choose from and they played at least one song of each album (except for the 2015 album ‘Strangers To Ourselves’). Additionally the band performed a beautiful cover of The Cure’s ‘A Forest’. The song turned into a jam session with Isaac and guitarist Simon O’Connor trading solos.

The song with the biggest reception was fan favourite ‘Float On’. Everyone in the bowl got to their feet and were bopping up and down in time with the music and singing along.

Modest Mouse played two more songs ‘Teeth Like God’s Sunshine’ and ‘Shit Luck’, then with a quick nod of appreciation they were off the stage.

After a quick half hour break, while the roadies quickly changed the stage setup, and the crowd had an opportunity to get some merch or beverages, everyone was set for the headliners.

The Pixies took the stage in the dark and started playing backlit and with their backs to the crowd. Then they started the show with their surf rock single ‘Cecilia Ann’. The bowl was filled with the reverb from Joey’s Les Paul.

And just like Modest Mouse, Pixies frontman Black Francis is a man of few words. In fact he too was all about the music for all of their show. And his voice has lost any of its range or power. And his power was especially noticeable on the fan favourite ‘Gouge Away’.

Since the early 90’s, the Pixies have been the inspiration for many rock bands. Notably Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Jerry Cantrell, and Gavin Rossdale (among many others) have cited that the Pixies musical style has been a big influence in their compositions. The Pixies are creative pioneers in their dynamic changes to tempo and volume mid songs. And Saturday night in Toronto was no different.

For the Pixies, often the notes they don’t play are almost as important as the notes they do play. Between David’s syncopated beats and the rest of the band’s musical pauses, the audience is kept on their toes and engaged with all of the music.

Emma Robinson on bass is a relatively new member of the band, joining the Pixies in March. But she is not new to the stage, having played in Band Of Skulls for 20 years. Emma was using a pick all night and the sounds were sharp with quick tempo, keeping pace with David on drums.

Emma also provided beautiful harmonies to Black Francis, and took lead vocals when the band performed ‘The Happening’. Additionally, in that song Emma’s bass was at the forefront.

Joey Santiago is a guitar prodigy. He can shred with all the best, but all night he was adding so much more with his effects. Joey varies his styles from surf rock to psychedelia. At one point he was using the brim of his cap as a guitar slide, and didn’t miss a note.

Fortunately the Pixies didn’t go offstage, making everyone wait in the rain begging for an encore. Instead they just played right through (another innovation that other bands should follow, especially in the rain). Instead they carried on playing, ending the night with two epic songs. Their second-last song of the night was their smash hit ‘Where Is My Mind?’. Emma’s opening wails were perfect and Black Francis’s voice was the same as 35 years ago. Again Joey’s guitar work was brilliant. All 16,000 fans were screaming.

The band closed out the night with a cover from another alt-rock pioneer, ‘Winterlong’ by Canada’s Neil Young. A fitting nod to playing in the great white north.

The walk out of Budweiser Stage was wet and cool, but nobody seemed to mind. It was all smiles after an incredible night of music.

Pixies:

Black Francis – lead vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitar
David Lovering – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Joey Santiago – lead guitar, backing vocals
Emma Richardson – bass, vocals

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38550 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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