Pixies / Spirits The Casbah, Hamilton, ON August 28

Pixies / Spirits The Casbah, Hamilton, ON August 28
Photo: Jason Schneider
When Spirits singer Brad Germain couldn't help but blurt out early in his band's set, "Did that just really fucking happen?" he was only echoing the thoughts of the other 250 fans who got to witness a surprise club performance by the Pixies. Ostensibly a warm-up for their Virgin Fest set the following day, as well as their upcoming Doolittle tour, the night managed to be a well-kept secret, even though it was intended to mark the launch of the self-titled debut album by hometown favourites Spirits.

Composed of former Marble Index front-man Germain, along with ex-Miniatures Ian Smith on guitar and Nick Skalkos on drums, the trio did an admirable job following their heroes, with a tight and animated run-through of the album's ten tracks. Straddling the line between dance pop and stadium rock, tracks like "Controlled Wildfires" and "When the Sun Gets in My Eyes" are can't-miss hits, and the band showed that they can be just as potent on stage.

Still, few artists would want to put that to the test following a 25-song set by the Pixies. At first, the quartet looked as shocked as the crowd to be there, opening with "Something Against You" and "Dead" without any fanfare from Black Francis, dressed - appropriately - all in black. But once Kim Deal's infectious personality starting revealing itself a few songs later, she asked, "You knew it was going to be us, right?" and the night finally took on some much-needed house party elements.

It was nothing but classics from then on, with only songs from Bossanova being omitted. As "Wave of Mutilation" marked the halfway point, even lead guitarist Joey Santiago seemed eager to step out of the shadows on stage left, laying down his trademark solos with more wild abandon than earlier in the show. By the final third, it had fully become a fan's wet dream as the band hit their stride with "Here Comes Your Man," "Debaser," "Monkey Gone to Heaven, "Where Is My Mind" and "Gigantic." Deal was nearly jumping out of her shoes herself on closer "Into the White," and at its conclusion, drummer David Lovering warmly acknowledged the audience.

While the never-ending Pixies reunion rolls on without any sign of new material, there are surprisingly no traces of self-parody, even if recent tours have at times been business-like. On this night, the Pixies proved that, when lured into a small club, their shared experiences over the past two decades have only strengthened the legend.