In just over 90 minutes, the Pixies managed to play 29 songs at the Paramount on Tuesday night. That output would be a difficult feat for most bands, but for the Pixies it was just a normal night of furiously cranking out short alt-rock classics, and doing it with aplomb.
The band could keep that pace in part because lead singer Black Francis rarely speaks onstage. On Tuesday, his only spoken words were when drummer David Lovering started a different song than planned.
The Pixies also play without written set lists, but many of the pairings of songs are standard. Most shows this tour have started with “Bone Machine” from 1988’s “Surfer Rosa,” and so did the Paramount performance.
The band followed that with “Wave of Mutilation” from its 1989 album “Doolittle,” which was when the capacity crowd began to turn the front of the Paramount into a time capsule of sorts. Suddenly, it was the pre-Grunge ’80s and the Pixies represented the zenith of what smart alternative rock could be.
Much has been made about how Kurt Cobain cited the Pixies as one of his biggest influences, and in the group’s loud and soft dynamic swings, you could hear that inspiration. Lovering’s drumming might have come off as Nirvana-esque until you realized he predated Nirvana. In any era, he was a joy to hear.
Guitarist Joey Santiago rarely ends up in guitar magazines, but on Tuesday it was obvious on “Debaser” and “U-Mass” that his playing has influenced many Seattle bands beyond the superstars. Like the rest of the Pixies, he was never showy, just solid.
The band wove in four tracks from its recently released two EPs, and though “Blue-Eyed Hex” didn’t get the same crowd response as “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” the new track felt part of a whole.
The absence of Kim Deal, who left the band last year, did take away some of the dramatic tension of past Pixies shows. Still, on musical terms, touring replacement Paz Lenchantin held her ground.
It’s hard to get away from the word “legendary” when describing the Pixies since the band has been so tremendously influential, but Tuesday never felt too nostalgic. Most of those legendary songs weren’t huge hits, so they felt they had life in them yet.
So, without any artifice or pomp, the Pixies powered through that 29-song set. The crowd didn’t need cute stage patter or setup to know it witnessed a special show.