Frank Black and the Catholics
Metro Theatre, Chicago • October 4, 1998
It’s been six years since the Pixies imploded and went their separate ways. Kim Deal borrowed heavily from her old band and moved millions of units with the Breeders, while the man who used to be Black Francis has released four albums on three different labels since 1993. Elektra Entertainment, the Pixies’ old label, released two retrospectives of the band in the last twelve months (1997’s Death the Pixies and this summer’s Pixies at the BBC), but Frank Black hasn’t reunited his old band and has stayed focused on his largely under-appreciated solo career.
The Sunday night attendance was pretty good and proved that Black still has his following. When Frank and his backing band the Catholics took the stage, the all-ages crowd went apeshit. Because Black hadn’t been doing Pixies songs in solo shows, opening with “Wave of Mutilation” was an unexpected but very well-received treat. Lest the audience think it was going to be oldies night, the next song, “All My Ghosts,” with its “who needs that now?” chorus was from the new Frank Black and the Catholics album. Crowd pleasers “Czar,” “Whatever Happened to Pong?,” “Thalassocracy,” and “Two Reelers” followed before Black tried out a couple of recently written and unrecorded songs. Of the new music, a power-popper called “Billy Radcliffe” was the standout.
The portly Black, sporting a suit and a shaved head, didn’t say much to the audience; he kept the attention on the music as he continued to tear through his twenty-three song set list . He headed back to his 1994 Teenager of the Year album for the next set of songs. An outstanding “Superabound” led the set, followed by the eerie “Man of Steel,” Frank’s contribution to Songs in the Key of X, the X-Files CD. He also did rockin’ versions of “Callistan” and the melodic “Red.” Proving he’s got his eye on the future, Black tried out another unrecorded rehearsal song before going into “Kicked in the Taco,” the first song of the night from his overlooked Cult of Ray album. Then out of nowhere, Black and the Catholics went into the rough and energetic “Holiday Song” from the Pixies’ 1987 Come On Pilgrim album. It was a classic back in all its sick and twisted glory; the crowd roared with approval. It was the second and final bone tossed to those in the audience there for Pixies material.
The next few songs; the toe-tapping “Six Sixty-Six,” the slower, bluesy “Steak ‘N Sabre,” and show-stopping rocker, “I Need Peace,” were all taken from the new album. This is probably a good place to mention the Catholics; Scott Boutier on drums and David McCaffrey on bass were a strong and entirely capable rhythm unit, while lead guitarist Rich Gilbert was energetic and explosive providing a wealth of both melody and noise.
“Los Angeles” and “Ten Percenter,” both popular favorites from Black’s debut album, closed the show. The band came out for one encore, a set featuring “Speedy Marie” and the Eraserhead-inspired “I Gotta Move.” All in all, Frank Black showcased ninety-five minutes of his spirited brand of quirky alt-rock and proved that his live shows are enthralling and entertaining.