Back for the First Time 

A reformed Pixies finally hit Memphis on their "Lost Cities" tour.

The Pixies

The Pixies

In the years since the Pixies' somewhat messy 1993 breakup, the Boston-bred alt/indie quartet — singer/guitarist Frank Black (aka Black Francis), singer/bassist Kim Deal, lead guitarist Joey Santiago, and drummer David Lovering — has seen its stock rise from that of a moderately successful underground act into the pantheon of important and influential American rock bands, alongside the likes of the Velvet Underground and the Ramones.

When the Pixies regrouped after more than 20 years of rumors and speculation, the band was bigger than it ever had been, selling out venues across the globe in mere minutes and headlining major music festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza.

But prior to this wildly triumphant reunion, which began in 2004 and will at least continue through the band's scheduled performance this Monday night at the Orpheum, there were certainly times when even the band members themselves doubted the probability of such a reemergence.

"Oh yeah, I never had the thought of us coming back until it happened," Santiago says. "I thought it was definitely over. I thought it was the end."

And for good reason. The band's breakup was (long story short) both highly abrupt and contentious, and Black repeatedly scoffed at the notion of a Pixies reunion to the press throughout the band's hiatus. ("I haven't talked to Kim Deal since the last Pixies show in Vancouver in 1992," he told Magnet in 2001.) But interest in the band never stopped growing.

In hindsight, it's easy to see how the Pixies ushered in the alternative rock era. The "loud-quiet-loud" blueprint (which was, in fairness, inspired by '80s hardcore/post-punk icons Hüsker Dü) that the Pixies employed was faithfully duplicated by many popular bands throughout the '90s, including Nirvana, Radiohead, Pavement, Bush, and even Better Than Ezra — all of whom publicly acknowledged the Pixies as primary influences.

Black and Deal also fed the fire with their successful post-Pixies careers: Black as a solo artist and Deal with the Breeders, whose 1994 album Last Splash went platinum thanks to the alt-rock radio smash hit "Cannonball."

Somewhere along the way, something started to change. Black slowly began incorporating Pixies songs into his solo setlists in the early 2000s, breathing new life into the reunion rumor mill.

"I think it started with [Black] joking about it," Lovering says. "The opportunities were getting bigger and bigger for us. All these new audiences had become exposed to the music and never got to see us originally. It just became imminent. Talking about it became something."

"According to our management, we kept getting asked to do it [the reunion] every day since we broke up," Santiago says. "When we got the offer to do Coachella in 2004, we said yes, and thought, wow, we'd better practice for that. So we did a small tour leading up to it. From there it just kept going. I didn't really see it continuing."

But continue it has. The band has now been together longer in its reunited form (approaching eight years) than it was in its original heyday (about six).

"We've been doing it so long now without new stuff, I'm starting to worry that we'll wear out our welcome," Lovering says. "We played a casino on the last tour — that's not a good sign. But this has been a great run. I hope we can make a new record. The talks about it seem to be getting more serious. There's definitely potential. But otherwise, I'm not sure how much more we can do."

"We have no plans after this tour — not to say we're calling it quits. We'll see what happens," Santiago says.

And so, for now, the Pixies are embarked on one last "Lost Cities" tour, where the band will stage concerts in 19 cities where it has never performed (including Memphis). It is also a continuation of the "Doolittle Tour," in which the band pays tribute to its now-classic 1989 album of the same name by playing it in its entirety.

"We're very appreciative for what we've been able to do," Santiago says. "We're one of the lucky bands."

The Pixies
The Orpheum Theatre
Monday, November 14th
8 p.m.; $49.50

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