The Pixies are in fine form with new songs, new member

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David Bowie, reaching for words to describe the singer for one of his favorite new bands, once referred to Black Francis as "a mass of screaming flesh."

That was back in the late '80s/early '90s heyday of the Pixies, so a good 25 years have passed. Based on the show Saturday night at a sold-out Carnegie Music Hall, we can declare that Bowie's compelling description still carries weight.

The last time the Pixies were here, which was only the second time the Pixies were here, the Boston band was in reunion/nostalgia mode on the 2004-05 amphitheater tour.

On Saturday the quartet -- having skipped us on the "Doolittle" anniversary trek -- returned with new vigor having finally cut some new music. Perhaps a mixed blessing.

It wasn't just a few songs. The material from the new EP series, some still unreleased, took up a major portion of the set and had to be a bit disorienting for fans who came for the "hits." Fortunately, it ran an hour and 45 minutes with 30-plus songs, starting boldly with "Bone Machine" and the shrieking "Debaser."

The absence of Kim Deal obviously devalues the Pixies, but Paz Lanchentin (A Perfect Circle) fit right in both on backing vocals (no "Gigantic") and bass, which launches a good many Pixies songs. She looked the part too, in her indie black dress and white collar.

If and when Deal comes back, she'll have plenty of new songs to learn. Perhaps the best is "Indie Cindy," combining a slow, dreamy chorus with a frantic Francis talk-sing. The warped space-rock of "Andro Queen" made a nice pairing with "In Heaven," the song from "Eraserhead." "Greens and Blues" was colored with one of Joey Santiago's more grinding guitar leads, as was "Bagboy" with a nasty riff a la Gang of Four.

Santiago is a total character, even more than ever as he displayed with his mugging feedback solo on "Vamos." Francis did much of his damage on an acoustic guitar, not that it made the whole works any quieter. This show was as LOUD as it should have been.

Each piece of the Pixies is unique -- let's not forget the driver, David Lovering -- and together they are an explosive force, with a quirky sense of humor.

It was alarming when they blasted through "Head On" and exited having done "Wave of Mutilation" (UK surf version), "Here Comes Your Man" and "La La Love You" and others but leaving out a ton of old favorites.

More than making up for it was a wildly fun encore that had them slamming through ecstatic versions of "Gouge Away," "Monkey's Gone to Heaven" (with the stage going red as Francis sang "if the devil is 6"), the faster "Wave of Mutilation" and "Where is My Mind?" complete with a guitar riff that alone should have sent the Pixies into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame long before Nirvana.

The Pixies did not bring some polite older group to gently warm the crowd. They brought FIDLAR, an L.A. band best known for the song "Cheap Beer." Drummer Max Kuehn sported a "Heavy Metal" T-shirt and while that didn't describe them, the screaming skate punk noise band could hold their own in those circles. While FIDLAR veers more to the loud side, it does take some cues from the Pixies' patented quiet-to-loud dynamic.

Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576.

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