The Pixies @ DAR Constitution Hall, 11/30/09

So this is what a reunion tour of the greatest post-punk band of my generation looks like. Instead of a beer-soaked basement hall, they play a carpeted, well-lit auditorium. Text-messaging hipsters line the hallway before the show because they cannot take their sour apple martinis into the main hall. Fans can buy a recording of that evening's performance for $25, ready to be downloaded to their computers by the time they arrive back home. Pretty high-tech for a band that doesn't even maintain a website.

The band starts the concert with obscure songs from their B-sides album, "Dancing the Manta Ray," "Weird at My School," and probably their worst song ever, "Bailey's Walk." Never mind, the crowd is on their feet as soon as the Pixies walk on stage, and though there is no moshing amongst the flip-up chairs, most everyone stays standing, dancing in place, throughout the roughly hour and a half onslaught of music. The band, all in black, looks as if they are dressed for a day of standing in line at the unemployment office, and the goofy big paper lantern lights that hang over them waggle and gyrate amateurishly. But that is punk music, right? No overpowering, elaborate sets, no sexy back-up singers, no strobe lights or fireworks (there was a giant screen, which thankfully I could not see from my seat), just four schlumps who happened to make seminal music in the last part of the last century and who have returned to feed their fans' hunger and make some money to support their middle-aged, middle-class lives, making no attempt to hide their feet of clay.

Marking the 20th anniversary of their best-selling album Doolittle, this is the Pixies second reunion tour since they broke up in 1993. Since that album was released, the band members have lost hair and gained weight, but Frank Black (Pokemon-like, Black Francis evolved post-Pixies, to become one of the great troubadours of the modern music scene) can still scream like a little girl, Joey Santiago can still milk the power chords from a guitar, David Lovering still dominates the drums and Kim Deal still...stands. No, the former Mrs. John Murphy can still thump on the bass, wringing its neck like its what's for dinner, and retains her dusky, ethereal voice. She also served as the narrator for the evening, the only one to address the audience, eschewing the "Hello DC!" banter for unapologetic comments like "Some of these songs are so obscure even we don't know them." But they, and everyone else in the room, knew Doolittle, which was played in its entirety, from the Generation X anthem "Debaser" to that ode to slackerdom, "Gouge Away." It was a rare opportunity to sing along at a live performance to "Hey," "La La Love You," and "Crackity Jones," and the fans sucked up every glorious moment of it. There were some songs that were a little garbled and off beat, such as "Into the White" and "I Bleed," but the few stumbles and missteps were negligible. When the performance of Doolittle was over, the band blundered about the stage, acknowledging the crowd's adulation, bumping into each other as they walked from one side of the stage to the other, waving and bowing. As Frank Black sings in a solo-career song, "Do not think he does not like the cheering of the crowd, No, he is glad that they came to see, The man who used to be, The man who was too loud."

The crowd bayed for more, and they delivered two encores, including the UK Surf version of "Wave of Mutilation," the from the B Sides album and songs from their first two albums, "Gigantic," "Where is My Mind?" and "Nimrod's Son." Frank, who has spent the years since the Pixies' breakup churning out albums and touring, was ready to pack it in on this second to last performance of their US tour, but the other 3 voted to do one last song, "Caribou." Then these rock gods bumbled off stage on their feet clay, and the crowd left happy, ears ringing. The Pixies are dead, long live the Pixies!

**Special thanks to Alice Stephens for contributing this review**

Photo by Brad Searles