The members of the Pixies were all young – in their 20s – when they burst on the scene and quickly exploded in popularity. Six years and four albums later, under the stress of the success and the desires of both Charles Thompson (Black Francis/Frank Black) and Kim Deal to pursue solo projects, the band disintegrated. Fans of the band have been clamoring for just one more album or one more concert from the distinctive alt rock band ever since.
In 2004 that dream came true as Black Francis, Kim Deal, Dave Lovering, and Joey Santiago decided to come together for one more tour. In the foreword of the booklet included with the DVD, directors Steven Cantor and Mathew Galkin tell the tale of how they had the epiphany (while waiting to buy tickets for the first show) that they should make a film about the reunion tour and decided, "To hell with buying tickets, we'll get backstage passes." Luckily for fans it worked out, because what's included in the 85-minute documentary and 33 minutes of deleted scenes and commentary is a telling look at what makes the Pixies so great as a band – and why it is nearly impossible to envision them continuing to function as a group for any length or time.
The film opens with what is going on in each individual's life prior to coming together for rehearsals for the tour. Charles Thompson is working on his solo career and building a life with his girlfriend and her two kids while expecting one of their own. Kim Deal is making music in Breeder, a band she started with her sister, and working hard at her one year sobriety from alcohol and drugs. Joe Santiago is working on the soundtrack of a documentary and anticipating the birth of his second child. Dave Lovering has been performing as a magician and is grieving over the recent death of his father.
Just before the band comes together to begin rehearsals, we see Charles in a phone interview addressing the upcoming tour. He is asked what it's like to be in the same room with the rest of the band after so long. His answer is, "It's like we never took a break." What is then shown appears to be a very tense situation. On the stage of an empty theater bits and pieces of songs are played, and there is discussion about keys and chord progressions, but there is also a tension, so heavy and thick you can feel it through your television screen.
As the first concert date nears, it seems things are getting better. Before the first show, which Charles refers to as a practice show, he calms Kim's nerves, telling her to just go out and have fun. Joe confides to the camera they are all being supportive of Kim's struggle with sobriety and they are all insisting there is to be no alcohol backstage. In the very next clip Dave admits to the other three he took a Valium with a glass of wine because he couldn't play unless he came down – a situation that would first be ignored before it become a real problem and finally dealt with mid-tour after the band was forced to leave the stage because Dave was too messed up to play.
Following that first show, it is Charles who is concerned when Kim is soaking her hands in the ice water the drinks are chilling in, and it is he who offers her concern and support when he sees her blistered fingers. For a brief time I was left wondering if the animosity between these two was nothing more than hype or maybe the wounds were healed by time and distance. As time and the tour progresses the closeness shown in the first shows fades away. Kim and her sister travel between shows in an RV which follows the tour bus transporting the other three. They are not seen socializing or communicating with each other except for shortly before and shortly after they appear on stage.
I don't know if it's animosity so much as it is just four people who have very little in common besides the music. Kim sums it up best at one point when she comments they are "the four worst communicators ever." That may be true offstage, but onstage is a different story altogether.
Cut between the interview clips and the observation of the band members on the road are pieces of many of the concerts of the tour. They are well lit and well shot and the sound is impeccable (Dolby 5.1 surround). Between the enthusiasm of the performing band and the reaction of the audiences — all of them sold out crowds — you truly see the magic that was this band and the music they made. From the pre-show show to the tour closer there is such energy and love moving back and forth between band members and their fans, I was sad to see it end. I was even sadder to see the white notation as the screen faded to black: "As of Spring 2006, the Pixies have no plans to record together."
If you need some hope to hang on to, in a recent interview with Blogcritics Magazine, Frank Black's response to the question of an upcoming Pixies album was, "You never know." In the meantime if you missed seeing the Pixies on their reunion tour, and especially if you did see them, you will want to pick up loudQUIETloud, as a keepsake and a piece of music history.