April 23, 2024

The Pixies – Energies undimmed after thirty years

Live at Leeds O2 Academy 17th September 2019

Is there a better way to open a Pixies gig than Gouge Away, with it’s fantastic surf guitar and epic sweep? Then again, there are a lot of classic songs and this tour sees them mixed in varying setlists. Given that the band released four and a half albums between 1987 and 1993 but only 3 since, there is plenty of balance to those older ones that people have come to hear. With a two hours set and thirty-eight songs, there was something for everyone.

Some folk took toilet breaks for the new songs, but only those on the edges of this insanely-packed crowd; the rest couldn’t move. The band, now with many years behind them (excluding the hiatuses and splits), is more or less original. Only Kim Deal is no longer present but the band have chosen a female bassist again, so she gets the Kim vocals. Frank Black is an imposing figure, bulky and sweaty, forcing his bizarre lyrical content out with momentum. Joey Santiago is cool and rolls out the twangy licks without ever getting very excited. Shame the lighting crew only latterly decided to shine on him. David Lovering is tucked at the back and, like the rest of the band, says nothing. No welcome, chat, introductions, nada. Just business and thirty-eight songs.

The crowd are fully engaged and Where Is My Mind is a delight, with the ‘woo, woos’ rolling out from thousands of adoring mouths. When it steps quickly into Nimrod’s Son a ripple of pleasure runs round the room and momentum is maintained into Bird Of Prey. Here Comes Your Man is the garage classic it always was and Ready For Love sounds like a sixties cover. Given the first is from Doolittle and the second from newly released Beneath The Eyrie, there is a golden thread through this band’s thirty-year history. Vamos has a thirty second guitar solo from Joey Santiago while Frank takes a quick break from the stage and that is as flashy as things get. Our “three songs, no flash” stint in the photo pit gives the chance to stand in front of Joey’s guitar amp and it is a privilege to get the focus on this seminal element of the sound. The fusion of pop, surf and garage is what made this band. Okay, there was the loud-quiet-loud but tonight is more loud-loud-loud and they are a solid proposition.

From there on, the crowd count off the remaining classics – Caribou, Monkey’s Gone To Heaven, Wave Of Mutilation, between more recent songs and finally we close with the strangely underwhelming Daniel Boone from the new album. It takes some confidence to do that and the adoring tumult from the crowd at the end is undimmed.

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