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Concert Reviews:
Pixies, Wire shows turn Detroit into modern rock mecca

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2015

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DETROIT -- Thanks to some unexpected circumstances, Detroit was an epicenter of influential modern rock on Tuesday night, June 9.

The Pixies and Wire are a few years apart in terms of rock 'n' roll evolution, as well as from two sides of the Atlantic. But both are groundbreakers whose work -- Wire starting during the late 70s in England, the Pixies from the mid-80s out of Boston -- is echoed by any number of bands that came in their wake. Hopping from one show to the next offered an earful of trend-setting music that was similar in spirit if not sonics.

The Pixies show at Saint Andrews Hall, of course, wasn't supposed to happen; the group was slated to open for Robert Plant on Tuesday at the Meadow Brook Music Festival. But when laryngitis forced Plant to postpone until Sept. 10, the Pixies scheduled a last-minute show downtown, which was packed with fans thrilled to see the iconic quartet in such an intimate venue (it's first Saint Andrews show since 1989).

Frontman Frank Black, aka Black Francis, didn't have much to say during the show, but the music said plenty as the Pixies packed 28 songs into a briskly paced 95 minutes. A generous selection (six songs) from the group's latest album, 2014's "Indie Cindy," sat alongside favorites from classic albums such as "Surfer Rosa" and "Doolittle," with highlights including charged performances of "Bone Machine," "U-Mass," "Wave of Mutilation," "Snakes," "Silver Snail," "Greens and Blues" and "Monkey Goes to Heaven." The group also pulled out a cover of David Lynch's "In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)" as well as the brand new "Um Chagga Lagga," and it was clear that bassist Paz Lenchantin, whose been on board since 2013, has brought a palpable new energy to the group -- as well as some rare smiles to the stage.

Over at Populux (formerly the Magic Stick), Wire didn't have quite the same crowd; in fact, it was a meager turnout, especially considering compared to a throng at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit on a sweltering summer night two years ago. Then again, that was the British quartet's first Detroit show in 25 years, so Tuesday's stop didn't have quite the same cache.

Nevertheless, Wire played with characteristic muscle and ferocity, drawing 11 of the night's songs from its self-titled new album and leaving many staples at home (only one song, "Brazil," from 1977's seminal "Pink Flag" album) in order to dig deeper into its catalog. Though some feedback plagued the early part of the set, Wire plowed through and ultimate rallied by the middle of the show for tight, invigorating versions of "High," "In Manchester," "Shifting," "Octopus," a blistering "Stealth of a Stork" and a mind-melting "Swallow" that closed the main set. Populux is now primarily a dance club, but for one night Wire made sure the room still rocked.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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