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Blu-ray Music Review: Pixies – Live: Acoustic & Electric

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

Although this is a completely new Blu-ray release, there’s no new material on it. Instead, it combines the contents of two previous Pixies concert DVDs released in 2006 in their entirety, including the bonus features. As such, fans who already have the DVDs may have little incentive to upgrade aside from technical specs and marginal space-saving design.

After over a decade apart, the Pixies reunited in 2004 and found themselves playing to larger audiences than they ever encountered in their heyday. This led to an extended tour schedule and eventually to the two DVDs documenting these full concerts.

The Blu leads off with a full acoustic set recorded at the Newport Folk Festival in 2005. It’s an interesting choice for the reunited band, representing their first-ever entirely acoustic set and first-ever appearance at an event that wouldn’t seem to be a natural for them. I expected very little from this outing but was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the songs in their acoustic setting and the ease with which the band adapted to the extremely laid-back vibe of the festival. Against a setting sun and within steps of the beach, the band delivered a completely satisfying set and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the performance themselves. Well, except for guitarist Joey Santiago, but that’s just because he’s apparently always inscrutable when it comes to displaying emotions on stage.

The second concert presents the Pixies in their normal electric mode at a very small club in Boston surrounded by around 200 of their closest friends and biggest fans. This is a longer set and is also a fine performance, but in spite of the intimate setting, traditional performance method, and deep-catalog choices I found myself not nearly as entertained as the acoustic concert. Maybe it was too much of the same too shortly after viewing the first concert, maybe there just wasn’t enough energy in the venue with the greatly constrained audience numbers, but it felt too forced to me and ultimately a bit lacking compared to its acoustic partner.

The extras are even more performance footage, so if you didn’t get enough from the main features there’s still plenty more to come. From the acoustic DVD, we get some in-depth rehearsal footage showing the pains the band went to in boning up for their unprecedented performance. The best part of this is a nearly full version of Debaser that was inexplicably cut from the final concert, making this the only way to experience the acoustic take on the song. From the electric DVD, we get very early and very rough footage of a 1986 set in its entirety. Seriously, it’s rough, seemingly lifted from a fan or roadie’s home-video camera with no attempt to enhance the image, right down to the embedded 10/31/86 timestamp present throughout the set. Thankfully, the sound quality is passable, and it’s really amusing to see the young band members, especially lead singer Frank Black who appears to be about 12 years old here.

As for technical considerations, both concerts are presented in widescreen but the resolution maxes out at 1080i, not 1080p. The acoustic set appears to have been shot on film or video mastered to look like film, but based on the somewhat substandard hi-def quality appears to have just been transferred from the DVD rather than remastered from the source. The electric set was definitely shot on video and appears much closer to true hi def. Interestingly, the default audio track is two-channel LPCM stereo, but 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS HD Master Audio tracks are also available for the primary concerts. The entire package is presented on a single Blu-ray disc.

Pixies – Live: Acoustic & Electric is now available.

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