After performing as part of the Pixies-an extremely successful band that influenced generations of musicians to come-it’s no surprise that the group’s frontman eventually would grow tired of singing the same old songs. But on Saturday night at Velvet Jones, the legendary Frank Black managed nearly to empty a bar so packed that the upstairs, at one point, had to be opened up to increase the room’s occupancy. By the end of the evening, only the most dedicated shoegazers were left standing in either awe or boredom.
“Wave of Mutilation” was among one of the only recognizable songs from the night. Black also played “Los Angeles,” a credit to his time with the Catholics, which got some airplay in the ’90s. But other than that, it just felt a bit awkward. Black spent the evening playing solo with a raw-sounding electric guitar and pitchy harmonica, churning out tunes that no one seemed to know. Although a true guitar master, talented performer, and even engaging vocalist, groups of kids wearing thick-rimmed glasses seemed to shuffle out of the club. After about an hour, the headgear for his harmonica snapped mid song, and Black apologized to his shrunken crowd for what he called a “Bob Dylan moment.”
Perhaps the best part of the show took place backstage, before the main act even began. While openers The Coral Sea were still performing, Black was in the greenroom, warming up a capella and listening to oldies. When The Coral Sea finished their set, which was filled with twinkling guitars, mellow tunes, and an impression drum and rhythm section, Black’s roadies set the stage. When the guitar tuning was done, they came backstage and went into the greenroom. “It’s time for me?” Black asked. “Alright.” He walked out wearing a satchel, sunglasses, and looking, frankly, like anyone else in the bar. Before Black’s performance, Coral Sea keyboardist Eric Ahlgren commented on opening up for Black Francis. “I’m very honored,” he expressed. “I’m a big fan of many years.” Sadly, there weren’t more of them willing to stick around for the whole show.