Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pixies/Gogol Bordello/Cat Power, September 28, 2014 at the Hollywood Bowl

Pixies have played every other venue in L.A., if not the rest of the world, that when they play a new place it doesn’t seem like fresh exploration so much as checking off another one from a list.  Playing the Hollywood Bowl should be a big deal for any band, even one who has been around the world so often, but for them it just seemed like an obligation.  It’s almost like it must be something in their contract to not play a stage they’ve already been, even if they don’t sell it out.  It would have been a momentous occasion to see them there if they hadn’t already tried to wear out their welcome everywhere else.  As such, we didn’t rush to get tickets.  We might have even skipped the show, having already seen the best of what they have (and more -- or less -- at Coachella that year), even when they switch up the set-list every night (making a case for seeing them multiple times) but now mixing in new stuff that didn’t need to be experienced more than once (or at all).  It was the under-card of the event that had us, and when the drinking kids were going to make a night of it, we figured we might as well be in too.  We tried out a new picnic spot and didn’t hurry in to see Cat Power.  It’s great that they got her for that show and I count myself as a fan, but anyone would know that her demure angst wasn’t going to electrify the place.  And indeed it didn’t.  What is a welcome, intimate listen through headphones on a bad day doesn’t convey the same energy in such a big setting.  Her festival-appropriate performances with her Southern-blues band fit her, but that night was back to the quiet confessional that just wouldn’t get anyone on their feet.  But if an opening band is a warm-up then she was good enough if she had to be.  However, there’s also the risk of an opening band eclipsing who they’re opening for, and anyone who hires on Gogol Bordello to play before them hoping to retain their audience clearly don’t know what they’re in for.  Gogol Bordello explode any line-up and it’s up to the other bands they play after to catch up, if they can.  It was either lack of forewarning, straight stupidity, or another sign that the Pixies really don't care to let such a band go on before them, but it was a selling point for us.  The gypsy-punks of Gogol Bordello are a hand-grenade dropped in the middle of a crowd, maybe a little more new-school than the oldies coming to see the Pixies would expect but it’s more of an effort to resist an explosion than to let it take you over.  Rock music is rock music.  Gogol Bordello can fill any time-slot, whether it’s their show or for another band, and they blow it up in their own unique way without a challenge.  Even the open-air lack of confines couldn’t pin them down that night, as ever.  They bring it all on the stage and don’t take anything back with them.  Eugene even started with wearing a button-down shirt -- yeah, quickly gone.  It could have been easily forgiven for any new fans to jump ship from the Pixies to the Bordello that night, especially when the former wouldn’t bother to attempt to recapture the energy of their (second) openers.  The Pixies were and are as sturdy as they ever have been.  They’re a good band, proficient enough with the great songs of their past, not matter how many times we’ve heard them and seen the band (as unavoidable as they’ve been with festivals and shows since their reunion, now running much longer than their original incarnation).  Like any other band, it’s up to their front-person to set the stage and their presence -- or lack of it -- can make or break a show.  Frank Black Francis is famously a turgid presence and generally no one seems to care.  Early on in the reunion he was still shredding his voice and might even engage the audience (though any effort was leagues beyond what he used to).  Now he seems like this whole reunion thing is just dragging out and he would rather be anywhere else doing anything else.  At one point we could have been happy that he was out there with all of them together doing those songs we love so much but it’s been so long that it seems like they’re going on with it just because they don’t want to have to be annoyed by their lives when they’re not being the Pixies (the spearhead of that being Black himself).  An old band could bring it back again with new songs and a renewed purpose but Black hasn’t bothered with that either; his own begrudging obligation to have to put together new stuff for the band is clearly the basis of any of the new tracks, and they clearly did not refresh or energize them.  Even bringing on Paz didn’t enliven anything.  More than any other time, Kim's absence was felt, as a counterweight to Black's apathy if nothing else; we can get over her not being with them anymore -- we know she can go on to other worthy stuff (and maybe she’s the smart one for getting out while the getting was good) -- so we won’t hold it against Paz.  She could get some sympathy for being the one person excited to be up there.  Joey and Dave try as much as they can but without guidance for a leader then they’re just going through the motions and pinning it up as another shift to punch; it can only be draining to have to have a leader who hasn't cared in years.  Dave even noted that that day was an anniversary of their first album being released -- an auspicious occasion and one to be celebrated (even if it surely was only by coincidence on the same night that they had to play the Bowl) -- but the fact that it took the drummer to announce it when the singer -- the guy that everyone is listening to -- couldn’t be bothered just showed how apathetic some of the disparate parts could be (as if it needed to be further emphasized).  It wasn't a bad set, even with the new material, but it was fairly standard, as maybe it was supposed to be playing such an important show, even if that was lost on the band.  It was what anyone would expect, no surprises, probably just the standards that Paz knows.  It could be imagined that the rest of the band finished the show and went home like it was any other night and any other show, that they might or might not have even wanted to do.  We in the audience left the show and went home, a shame the night couldn't mean more for us since it didn't mean much for them.

Pixies' set-list:
"Bone Machine"
"Wave of Mutilation"
"Something Against You"
"Gouge Away"
"Crackity Jones"
"Magdalena 318"
"Nimrod's Son"
"Indie Cindy"
"Here Comes Your Man"
"La La Love You"
"Greens and Blues"
"Isla de Encanta"
"Monkey Gone to Heaven"
"Where Is My Mind?"

"Planet of Sound"

Gogol Bordello's set-list:
"Not a Crime"
"Wonderlust King"
"The Other Side of Rainbow"
"Last One Goes the Hope"
"My Companjerav
"Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)"
"Start Wearing Purple"

Cat Power's set-list (incomplete):
"The Greatest"
"Shivers" (The Boys Next Door cover) (With "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" snippet)
"Sea of Love" (Phil Phillips cover)