#Indianapolis – Black Francis makes his way to an empty stage through a sold out crowd at Radio Radio with a backpack and a bag in hand. Dressed in gray jeans, a black V-neck T-shirt and black shoes, he looks like the average person that would attend his show.
Francis grabs the mic and says “I’m nervous about this show tonight.”
There’s good reason for him to be nervous despite performing as a musician for decades. The night before he had been performing as the front man for the legendary music group, the Pixies, in Madison, Wisconsin, the last leg of the group’s North American tour supporting its first full-length album since 1991.
And just hours before the show Francis sat in his rented van strumming away on his guitar, writing his set list for the evening on the spot.
The show at Radio Radio itself felt just as impromptu as the set list, most people only hearing about the concert days prior to the event.
If you’ve never heard of Black Francis there’s a chance you’re familiar with his work without even knowing it. Pixies’ songs have subtly made their way onto the big screen, the best example is one of the group’s biggest hits “Where Is My Mind?,” which was featured at end of the 1999 film “Fight Club.”
While it’s common for solo artists to be backed by a band when they perform live, Black Francis played his set at Radio Radio by himself.
Just a Fender Telecaster, an acoustic guitar and a Vox amplifier supported his voice as the performer played a two-hour set riddled with classic songs from his days with the Pixies, as a solo artist known as Frank Black and songs off the Pixies’ latest album.
Performing with his eyes closed for most of the night and with a voice ripe with emotion and grit, songs like “Where Is My Mind?,” “Monkey Gone To Heaven” and “Burn Today” had the crowd singing the lyrics word for word.
Some of the audience members even decided to echo Francis’ lyrics during some songs which gave the Fountain Square concert a genuine and organic touch.
Francis gave few anecdotes throughout the course of the evening but did hail Indiana as the “king of corn,” a crowning that was crowd pleasing and brought laughter.
If the performance could be described by a cliché it would be once-in-a-life-time.
The set felt straight from the heart and soul due to its spontaneous conception, and raw since Francis and his guitar alone backed songs usually performed as a band.
It was like Radio Radio’s own MTV Unplugged performance starring Black Francis.
It was a performance that resonated with the crowd. At no moment did Francis’ stature in the music world feel present, to the crowd it was a man they’ve known from his music playing songs they’ve enjoyed for years – maybe even decades.
No more, no less.
If I were to see Francis perform again in concert I believe that it wouldn’t be the same – not to say that’s a bad thing, this concert was just unique given the circumstance. Like a shooting star, the performance was there for a moment and then it was gone.
After the performance Francis took some time to take pictures with fans and sign autographs despite having to drive through the night to arrive at his next destination.
Humble, Francis signed and smiled as fans approached with camera phones, paper and pen and stories of how the performer had meant so much to them.
After it was all said and done what remained was a rainy Monday night which also had a tornado warning looming over it.
Unbeknownst to the rest of Indianapolis Black Francis had taken the stage and had left just as soon as he had appeared
For more information about concerts at Radio Radio head to their website here.